One hot summer’s day, an old flame turns up at Lafferton HQ and Simon Serrailler is catapulted back to his days as a fresh-faced PC in the Met.
That long febrile summer in the early 1990s, London was reeling from one IRA bomb warning after another. Sirens. Blue lights. Tyres screaming. People running. The army called in. And Simon in the thick of it. Until he’s pulled aside and put on a very different kind of job: his first undercover op awaits. Will the young Simon be able to hold his nerve? Or is he walking into a trap?
A short story which seems to be giving readers a little bit of background to Simons early career in the Police force. It is prompted by a visit from an old friend which jogs his memory and we go back with him to London. It’s at the time of IRA activity and there have been bombings. His station is on high alert but there are also a number of hoax callings happening. He is picked for an undercover job – all very cloak and dagger – implying that taking part will be good for his career. He’s keen to get on a CID fast track so Simon goes along and soon his instructions, such as they are, come through. What happens next … well no spoilers here!
Short stories can be strange things, they can just be a stand-alone story which you take as it is given and enjoy (or not) which is fine, end of as it were. They have to be tautly written drawing the reader in, getting across the point with characters, whether to love or hate, to connect with and give a fulfilling read. Not easy in a few pages.
As with a number of authors this short story is linked to a novel, especially a series, giving readers insights to enhance their knowledge, understanding of a character or situation. In this case it seemed to me more a re-introduction to DCI Simon Serrailler for readers. So going back to his early Police career maybe just giving that bit of backstory that will be useful to know when the new book comes out rather than for interest only. It can’t be crucial to the new book as not everyone will read a short story, even when linked to a book/series they enjoy. That is why I find this kind of short story a little strange so I don’t tend to read them. I feel it can be a bit of a waste – money, time – with nothing really necessary to the next book. In this instance I was intrigued as I understood that the last book was supposed to be just that – the last of the Serrailler series – and so I thought it might be good to get back into the Lafferton mind-set. And that is just what it has done – which is great.
But then it also contained a preview of the new book – now that’s a risk! If I read it and don’t like it oh my! I could just not read it but it’s there……..
I was looking forward to the new book……..
and, thank goodness, I still am!
This short story has reassured me that the new book is going to be just as good, as well written (as one would expect of the author) and that there is a story needing to be told and the excerpt that tells me it’s going to be another cracking read from Susan Hill.
With thanks to the publisher Penguin-Vintage for a copy of Old Haunts via NetGalley. This is my own opinion. I have not received any payment in relation to my review.
Print Length: 39 pages
Publisher: Penguin: Vintage Digital (16 Aug. 2018)
Buy: currently 99p Amazon
Author: Susan Hill has been a professional writer for over fifty years. Her books have won awards and prizes including the Whitbread, the John Llewellyn Rhys and the Somerset Maugham; and have been shortlisted for the Booker. She was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Honours. Her novels include Strange Meeting, I’m the King of the Castle, In the Springtime of the Year and A Kind Man. She has also published autobiographical works and collections of short stories as well as the Simon Serrailler series of crime novels. The play of her ghost story The Woman in Black has been running in London’s West End since 1988. She has two adult daughters and lives in North Norfolk.
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