One of the interesting things I've enjoyed about this series is trying to figure out a link between the title and the book itself. I've tried to mention a bit about that in each review, even if I haven't really taken a lot of time to discuss that aspect or my opinion of it anyway. The title, The Soul of Discretion, is a curious one. Let's think about what discretion actually means and then I'll try to share a bit about where discretion or lack of it might have played a part in the story.
Discretion, according to MerriamWebster:The Soul of Discretion begins, as did the previous book, with crimes committed in the past. Two different incidents of children abused, horrific crimes. In the present, DCS Simon Serrailler has had a lot of changes in his life. Rachel, his current significant other, has recently moved in with him. This is a very big deal for Simon and he is not quite sure how well he will like the situation. His boss has recently retired and a new, younger man has taken her place as Chief Constable, Kieran Bright.
1. the quality of having or showing discernment or good judgment : the quality of being discreet: circumspection; especially: cautious reserve in speech
2. ability to make responsible decisions
3, individual choice or judgment; power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds
One of the first things that Mr. Bright does is call Simon in to meet with a special group in the police - the ones who work with child pornography. It has been ascertained that there is a large ring of individuals who lurk in the shadows and participate in vile crimes against children. Simon is asked to go deep undercover, in a prison no less, to assist in finding out who these awful criminals actually are. If he agrees, he will not be able to tell anyone, friend, family, colleague, what is going on. It will require a total commitment from him for possibly months.
As regards other characters that we've come to know and love, Simon's sister, Dr. Cat Deerbon, is still unsure about her position with the hospice. She has been taking on fill-in spots with local GP's in order to keep her funds flowing. Her children are growing rapidly and Sam, especially, has been a bit of a trial as he navigates his teen years. She is also very much concerned about problems between her father, Richard Serrailler, and her stepmother, Judith. And with good reason. Richard Serrailler has always been a brusque, chilly individual, but he has turned into a brute in more ways than one.
The Soul of Discretion is indeed filled with decisions to be made by virtually all the characters. Some of those turn out well and some are, frankly, beyond awful. The task that Simon is asked to do is unthinkable, but so, so gripping in the telling. Susan Hill has always included issues and moral questions that are obviously important to her. The case for hospice care and end of life choices, the changing nature of the medical field, and methods of policing and litigating of various crimes. In this book, sexual abuse plays a big part. Rape and whether the victim is believed, based on certain factors, is also included. This is not a happy book. There are secrets everywhere, some even with people we have come to know. The last quarter of the book is quite compelling and, for me, unputdownable. I had to know. Had. To.
So, was I pleased with The Soul of Discretion? Yes. Mostly. I could wish for a bit less 'preaching' on the end of life issue. I think Susan Hill has 'been there, done that'. There are some hints of changes in the lives of our characters, several of them welcome changes. Will I read the next book, should she write one? Oh, yes. Because - I've got to know.
I do want to say that even though there are awful, terrible crimes committed against children, there are no graphic descriptions of them. They occur 'off scene', so to speak.