Friday, February 5, 2010

a review of "The Pure in Heart" [10]

The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill
(The Overlook Press, ISBN 978-1-58567-928-7)

Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler is back in this, the second in the series, and a very worthy follow up to the first, "The Various Haunts of Men", it is. As the book opens, Simon is on vacation in Venice, pursuing his other great love in life, his drawing, and trying to deal with the events that concluded the first book. Then a phone call from his father convinces him to fly home at once. His younger sister, a extremely severely handicapped young woman, appears to be on the verge of death. His father, in his ever charming way, say that if he wants to see her alive, he better come at once.

But as this is not enough for Simon to deal with, he arrives back just as a terrible crime comes to light. A young boy has disappeared as he stood at the front gate of his house, waiting for his ride to school. There are no witnesses, no clues, seemingly no avenues of investigation to follow, just a family left behind, a family that is falling apart in front of our eyes.
And lastly, in a third story line, there is a young man, an ex-con just released from prison, who wants to go straight, but is being pulled back, from every side, back into a life of crime.

In the first book in the series, The Various Haunts of Men, we were introduced to Simon and a few members of his family but actually did not find out a great deal about our chief inspector. In this book, we learn a great deal more about the family and come to realize that some of our first impressions may have been mistaken. Not everyone is the person we may have first thought, for good and bad. But I must say, where as in the first book I was not that fond of Simon, he is starting to grow on me as we learn more about him. He is certainly not with out his flaws, but we start to see them is some perspective and see why he is the man, and police inspector, that he is.

And then there is our central crime. This is a very character driven book, at times the plot taking a slightly secondary role even, which may leave a few mystery readers a little wanting. I just warn you that if you are one who wants everything all neatly tied up by the last page, you may not be happy. This seems to be a characteristic of this series, to leave us with questions, to leave us wondering a bit...perhaps questions to be answered in the next book.
But if you are a reader who wants to really get into the middle of a crime, really into the mind of those involved, this is a series you will like. As in the previous book, different chapters are written from the various points of view of different characters and I must say, for example, that getting inside the thoughts of the mother whose son had disappeared was so very well written and so truly heartbreaking.

This book could, I suppose, be read as a stand alone, but really I think this is one series best read in order for maximum enjoyment. I found this a compelling read, one of those books you really feel you are a part of, with characters that seem more like real people than just words on a page.
Of course, I already have the third in the series in my greedy little hands, to continue on the journey.

Again, thank you to my local library for the loan of this book


  1. I've been wanting to read this series. I own the first 3 books. Sounds like I need to get started soon. thanks for the review.

  2. are lucky! I am lucky my library has them all.

  3. OK. .. I really need to get my hands on this one. I'm going to have to check my library.


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