Can a person love two people at the same time?

Can a person BE two different people at the same time?

These are the main questions the wonderful Susan Hill addresses in the compelling new Simon Serailler mystery A Question of Identity.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed, as Hill explores Serailler’s relationship with the woman he loves, whose husband is dying.

She continues to weave in his sister, Cat, a young widow raising three children and working hospice, who faces more changes in her future just as she unearths a terrible family secret.

She also gives us an inside look for the first time into the mind of the killer Simon must unveil, by following snatches of his thoughts during the entire investigative process.

The cathedral town of Laffterton that Serailler inhabits hasn’t seen a crime as this: the brutal murder of an elderly woman, newly moved into a brand new housing scheme, posed in a way that marks the murderer’s signature. This is a careful killer, one who wears gloves, doesn’t leave a trace behind, and chooses his victims for their age and inability to react quickly to his appearance.

As the murders escalate, Serailler’s team keeps several bizarre aspects of the murder from the public. Then their investigation finds these signs to be the exact MO of a suspect previously charged with several murders who had been acquitted. But trying to find the murderer takes on an unreal aspect when Serailler learns the suspect has been given a new identity, and simply vanished. And the powers that be refuse to give him any details or acknowledge the man existed.

Hill ups the empathy with Serialler’s frustration by introducing the victims to the reader before the murders, weaving in his private life and snatched moments with his beloved Rachel at times, visits with his sister and her family at others. Realistic happenings in Cat’s life lend even more verisimilitude as she copes with teens, tweens, and the aftermath of a past case on a young doctor who has been living with her family. The first death doesn’t occur until page 137, plenty of time for Hill to ratchet up the suspense as readers come to realize who the victims will be.

This is a satisfying read in a continuing series that is what The Washington Post calls a “. . .  brooding series that rivets a reader’s attention.”

Ruth Rendell has this to say about Susan Hill: “Not all great novelists can write crime fiction, but when one like Susan Hill does the result is stunning.”

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