The Betrayal of Trust
Susan Hill
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Buy *The Betrayal of Trust: A Chief Superintendent Simon Serailler Mystery* by Susan Hill online

The Betrayal of Trust: A Chief Superintendent Simon Serailler Mystery
Susan Hill
Overlook Trade Paperbacks
368 pages
October 2012
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The gale blows louder in the picaresque town of Lafferton as the water rushes off the Moor, bringing stones, soil and branches with it. From Cathedral Close to the water-filled streets, the storm brings half the Moor down. When unearthed, the bones and skull look definitely human. C.S. Simon Serrailler is appalled that this is all that remains of a person who was once flesh and blood.

Meanwhile, Simonís sister, Cat Deerbon, attends to the demands of her family, tutoring her live-in student, Molly Lucas, through her final year as a medical student at Bevham General. Still a specialist in palliative care, Cat finds herself counseling 73-year-old Jocelyn Forbes, who comes into her office complaining of muscle aches and an inability to control her own body.

Juxtaposing the fraught dynamic between Catís views on end-of-life care and the controversial issue of assisted suicide, Hillís story is as dark and bleak as the Lafferton gale. Cat has a lot to cope with: the stark realities of hospice funding, the plight of dementia sufferers, and her hospice committee--where, together with John Lowther, she struggles to not only provide top-notch dementia care but to move the more practical work with sufferers forwards.

The newly discovered bones are revealed to be those of John Lowtherís teenage daughter, Harriet, who went missing sixteen years ago. The press pants for closure, and Simon is placed under considerable pressure to reopen the cold case. Simon is the breaker of bad news: that Johnís beautiful daughter was murdered. Then another grave is found in situ containing a skeleton, the body pushed slightly to one side, the left leg bent. There also appears to be a bash to the back of the skull.

Two girls, two bodies, and the case is formally reopened. Simon, now the senior investigating officer, is of the opinion that the first order of business is to conduct follow-up interviews with any witnesses still in the area. But sixteen years of life and change have muddied the waters. Memories have faded, and events have become confused. Someone out there was a person or persons who took the innocent lives of two young girls and buried their bodies.

Hillís images of Harriet - slim, blonde, wearing shorts and a white t-shirt, carrying in her tennis racket in a navy zipped bag - are indeed heartbreaking. The authorís handling of her controversial subject matter is superb, unfolding with ruthless efficiency, the desperate, ailing, and increasingly frail Jocelyn as she flees to a Swiss clinic with its pale, painted walls, pictures and magazines, and that terrifyingly real glass of mixture.

Chiefly a meditation on the unfairness of mortality, The Betrayal of Trust is driven by the importance of vague memories. Simon discovers the possibilities of new love while a dementia sufferer goes well beyond giving up her secrets. In this world of anonymous callers, what happened and why, and who the second girl was, all lies in the past, shut away in a tightly-lidded box that is still closed to Simon.

Itís a testament to the fierceness of Hillís writing that she can make the terminally ill so compelling while also weaving into her narrative a gripping murder mystery. The characters in her book seem so real as theyíre faced with daily struggles and ailing health, content to repair the broken aspects of their disparate lives, despite the odds.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2011

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