A Question Of Identity is the 7th book in Susan Hill's mystery series that I've been making my way through this year. It tells the story of the Serrailler family, the cathedral town of Lafferton, and of crimes to be solved and moral questions to be considered. I listened to this book on audio with the ever wonderful Steven Pacey as the narrator.
A Question Of Identity begins with a trial that occurred 10 years prior. A man has been charged with the murders of 3 elderly women. The case seems quite solid and the police are feeling confident that this serial killer has been apprehended and will be found guilty. However, things don't work out that way. A witness is confused, a defense attorney is tricky, and the jury acquits the man. For his own protection, the police and then Special Branch or whoever handles witness protection in Britain, take the man away and give him a new identity, a new life. He can't go back to his old life, even though he was found not guilty, because the public is incensed and would likely attack and possibly kill him.
We shift to Lafferton and the present day, 10 years later. DCS Simon Serrailler is on a week away with his nephew, Sam. Simon's sister, Cat, is settling into a new routine at the hospice where she works. Her lodger and helper, medical student Molly, is still trying to recover from the events of the previous book and not doing very well. Cat's young daughter, Hannah, is up for a part in an actual movie and excited beyond all measure. Cat's children have adjusted somewhat to the death of their father, but Sam is still having lots of issues. Cat and Simon's father and stepmother are having problems - serious problems - but the others don't know of that yet. Life has gone on and then Simon receives a call to return to work.
An elderly woman has been murdered. Killed in a very particular way. Though Simon and his team don't know it yet, crimes such as this have happened before. And it's a while before they are able to ascertain this. When someone is given a new identity, their previous self is wiped out, erased, changed - or is it?
A Question Of Identity was concerned with many issues - the plight of the elderly, more musings about end of life questions and whether hospice should be an in-patient endeavor or shifted to home care (because of money), and there are some hints of domestic issues of bullying and violence. Several characters are struggling with identity issues - deciding who they are and what paths they want to take. The crimes against the elderly women were troubling and we were 'treated' to the thought processes of the killer. We could surmise that the killer was the person acquitted of similar crimes in the past, but we had no idea of his new identity.
I liked this well enough. I did not have as many issues with Simon himself this time. I did have some issues with Cat's children and with some other family members. The mystery part of things was not particularly gripping and seemed to go on and on, but mostly I really didn't like hearing the killer's thoughts so frequently. I did guess who he was. I'll freely admit that I am now continuing this series more for the character development than for the mystery angle. And, yes, I'll read the most current book in the series, The Soul Of Discretion, mostly to say that I'm caught up. I've enjoyed this series, but feel it has lost a bit over the course of things. However, I'm always hopeful and so will think good thoughts about the most recent book.