What I liked about this book was Simon Serrailler. He is a character that I like a great deal. As well, I enjoy his family – his widowed sister and her kids, his father and stepmother and now a possible love interest. He carries the book. I have felt all the other Serrailler books rated a 4/5, this one is a 3. And if Simon hadn’t been in the book it would have been a 2.5.
There were too many things I didn’t like. The smallest of these is that fact that there are a distressing number of typos that should have been caught and information on the book jacket is wrong (not unusual since writers of the inside of book jackets have seldom read the book but someone should catch these things).
A larger issue is that fact that this has been a police procedural series and in this book there is little of that. Cutbacks and sick leaves have cut the staff and Simon is therefore mostly on his own.
The biggest issue is the fact that the ‘mystery’ (the murder of two women, one a teen and one a young woman) seems almost immaterial to Hill. The majority of the book is concerned with Jocelyn suffering from a terrible terminal illness and searching for an assisted suicide alternative to a prolonged process of death, the revelation that Simon’s mother assisted his sister to die, the inadequate availability of hospice care and the shortage of good care for patients with dementia.
My problem is not with a mystery examining these issues. Anne Perry, in her William Monk series, looks at very difficult issues. But they are tied strongly to the case he is investigating. In this case, in the end, we learn that the issues are tied so thinly to the crime, and its solution, as to be almost irrelevant.
The ending was abrupt. It was almost as if Hill had reached her word count and just ended the book. During the first 300 pages Jocelyn searches for help to end her life in the way she would chose. She has good cause to want to do this. She knows the disease she has, she knows how it will progress. 50 pages later she has apparently changed her mind and we are told this in approximately four lines and her part in the story is over. We have become emotionally involved with Jocelyn and then, at the end, we realize that she has no relationship to the crime other than the fact that a doctor she deals with also has a remote involvement with the person who committed the murders and her primary doctor is Simon’s sister.
The actions of the hospice doctor, and Molly, are left unresolved. I found it hard to believe that the dead teen’s father would be leaving the country just when the case is almost resolved. The fact that this book is part of a series does not justify leaving so many loose ends. Whether or not these characters reappear in later novels, the resolution of these current issues should be made. Even in a series, a book needs to be complete. The loose ends between Simon and his sister, Cat, and the other family issues can well move on into the next book. But the issues with other characters who have been given primacy in the book should be tied up. It felt like the mystery, and its solving, didn’t have enough meat for Hill to make a book, so she used these other issues, and the beginning of a love affair for Simon, to fill the pages.
It was a good book, until the end (which wasn’t an ending). Even the last line is a remote stretch.
This has to rate as one of my reading disappointments this year. It was part of a series that I really enjoy and at the end I felt cheated. I felt that it was my trust in Hill’s series that had been betrayed and I wanted to just pitch the book against the wall. Might have done so, but it was a library book, so I didn’t. The only reason I have for recommending it, is that if you have been reading the series you might want to be up-to-date on Simon’s private life. I will probably read the next Serrailler tale but, if it doesn’t go back to its earlier excellence, I’ll be done.