The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill

One of the things about crime fiction is there is always a new detective series to get caught up with. When I was younger, I worked my way through golden era detectives (courtesy of the now refurbished Exeter Central Library). My most recent series was Rebus, but I’m all caught up there. So I’ve been casting about for a new detective to follow*.

My latest investigation was into Susan Hills Simon Serrailler series, with The Betrayal of Trust.

Serrailler is in classic “middle class, middle aged” detective model. He has a complex family: in this case a widowed sister with three children, and an emotionally frozen father. He’s rebelled by going into detective work: the. Rest of the family are medical doctors. He has to deal with chippy colleagues. He has an artistic hobby: he paints.

This “posh DI” model is a procedural offshoot of the golden era’s “gentleman detective”. It essentially wonders what would happen if Wimsey or Campion had joined the police. There is something classist about it: the posh DI is always going against the family wishes, and is mildly distrusted by their colleagues.

None of that makes them bad – in this case, it was a really enjoyable read – but they never become series I become addicted to.

I enjoyed this for its interweaving of social justice and welfare with a cold case, but I mostly wanted to follow Cat Dearbon – the widowed sister – rather than Simon. I felt the constraints of the “posh DI procedural” genre kept pulling me away from a potentially more interesting story.

*I am obviously excluding Endeavour, as a) it’s a TV. Series and b) he’s not technically a new detective – just a younger version.

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