callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

The Benefit of Hindsight, Susan Hill/The Spy and the Traitor, Ben MacIntyre

Some people have a policy of never writing about a book they don’t like. Very nice of them but I think that if I’ve been sent a book to review, I should tell it as I see it. I finished this book feeling disappointed, cheated and outraged that there was no proper ending and too many loose ends. I actually could not believe the 100% which appeared at the bottom of the Kindle page, because who ends a book like that? I was really angry with the author beacuse I like everything wrapped up. Although there is a crime at the centre of the novel and one with many ramifications, it’s not enough to fill a novel, at least, not as written here. The book is padded out with chapters about things we already know: Simon’s demons (fed up with them); Cat’s niceness (she’s as lovely as ever); their father’s appalling behaviour (same old, same old). Nothing is added to our understanding of any of the characters.

This is formulaic, lazy writing; the formula being that of all the other Serraillier books. In addition, Susan Hill seems to have wanted to include everything she’s heard on the news that’s frightening about modern Britain. For example, two completely gratuitous incidents: a machete attack at the police station and the fatal stabbing of a teenage boy on a London street. I felt it failed completely as a detective mystery, the few moments of tension ending too quickly, so that there is no pace at all. Would this book have been published if it were a debut novel?

This is the tenth Serraillier mystery, so I’ve missed one. I wrote about #8 here.
I read this thanks to NetGalley and it will be out on October 3rd.

If you would like to read a real thriller, I recommend Ben MacIntyre's The Spy and the Traitor, the true story of KGB agent Oleg Gordievsky who spied for Britain, providing invaluable information. The plan to spring him from Moscow if it became necessary was amazingly complicated and there were so many ways it could go wrong that, not knowing the story, I was on tenterhooks waiting to find out what happened. It also sheds interesting light on just who gets to know about such top secret plots and reflects rather well on Margaret Thatcher.

Tags: ben macintyre, crime fiction, netgalley, spy fiction, susan hill

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