The Risk of Darkness is the third book of the “Simon Serrailler mystery series” (though, honestly, I think it could just as easily be the “Lafferton mystery series” as Simon often seems like a minor player in his own books). This is, to be honest, one of the oddest mystery series I’ve ever read, which is part of the attraction for me. In the first book, Simon barely made an appearance, and the ending was so shocking that I had to reread it to make sure I read it right. The second book dealt primarily with a child kidnapping case, which was left unresolved. In this third book, the child kidnapping case is picked up again as we find out “whodunit” (the answer isn’t one you could have figured out, but the “who” is particularly interesting).
As always, we get involved in the happenings of Simon’s family, particularly his sister Cat. (And let me tell you, Susan Hill isn’t afraid to knock off her own characters. No one is safe!) We also see Simon having strong feelings for a woman (sadly, not the oft-used and abused Diana)—whose attraction might be her very unavailability. Finally, a major story thread is the death of a young wife, whose crazed and bereaved husband goes off the rails as a result. As with the previous two books, we flip back and forth between all these plot lines and get into the heads of all the characters (from a murderer to a victim to the murderer’s family and everyone in between).
Part of why I like this series is that I never know where Hill is going to take it. Any one could die at any moment. New story lines are introduced and may or may not be continued in future books. Simon is a bit of a cad who has some major character flaws and often seems like a cipher in his own series. Hill writes fluidly from the points of view of children, men, women, victims, criminals, and the police. She gives minor characters story lines that continue from book to book. You never know who might appear in the next book or what minor plot point might turn out to be critical. It is a unique series (and if you’ve read another like it, please let me know!), and I’m intrigued about where she will take the fourth book, The Vows of Silence. If you’re looking for a well-written, unusual and unpredictable mystery series, this would be worth checking out.