26 December 2012

A Question of Identity; Susan Hill

A Question of IdentityA Question of Identity by Susan Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been a huge fan of the Simon Serrailler mystery series ever since I found a copy of The Various Haunts of Men in the Chapters bookstore in Montreal. They're a little like P.D. James, in terms of the depth of the writing and the remoteness of Serrailler, with a cast of characters (and their backstories) that would do Elizabeth George proud.

In terms of the mystery, this was a 4.5: a man is declared 'not guilty' of three murders of little old women (much to the town's shock) and is given a new identity by the police. Ten years later, in another town, similar murders start. To the reader it's clear that this is the same person, but who he now is becomes the question. What dropped this from a 5 was that the original murders took place in 2002 - while I can see the government wiping Keyes identity from the databases, even to scrubbing his fingerprints from HOLMES, I can't see a case this scandalous not having made front pages in Lafferton and the police there not immediately putting the two together. That seemed a little slipshod to me.

The title refers not just to the mystery, but to the internal dialog that former-Keyes has: who is he now?  After much drilling, he now has a new name, birthday, history and life, but is he the new person?  has Keyes been completely buried, or is he lurking underneath? Those are questions many people trying to transform themselves and their lives (perhaps not as completely as in this case) may ask.

The other .5 deduction was for too much of the non-mystery part. Cat, Judith, Rachel, Richard, Sam, et al., were featured far too much during this book, and none of those storylines were even close to resolved. While I don't mind some of that, in this book it felt like padding out a rather weak mystery.

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