I first read Susan Hill at school – The Woman in Black inevitably and I'm the King of the Castle. Woman stands out as the perfect chiller, and I've subsequently seen the excellent stage adaptation; King was a downright unpleasant exploration of children, read alongside Lord of the Flies and in a similar vein.

Crime felt like a departure for Hill, but it was obvious from the beginning that the Simon Serrailler novels were not typical police procedurals. The fictional cathedral town of Lafferton is entirely real and recognisable, for all it exists as only a few well-described key locations; Hill taps into the platonic English country town to sketch the rest. we don't need detail or maps, because we have all been there in some incarnation.

In contrast, the principal characters – the Serrailler family – are thoroughly considered, and the novels are more about their lives, causes and preoccupations than about the murders that drive the plots. Where Susan Hill excels throughout the series is her nuanced look at humanity's strengths, fatal flaws and other weaknesses through the lens of the family's experience. The series seems designed to make the reader uncomfortable, and the latest is no exception in it's wish to challenge the reader's ethics and sense of justice.

As we approach our eighth anniversary, my boy and I have been reflecting intermittently on what it is that draws us together. One popular theory is our willingness to (indeed enthusiasm for) take the piss: not just partners, but sparring partners. Another, often revisited, is our uncanny tendency to think and say the same thing at the same time. Last night, watching the rather good Public Enemies, our shared frame of reference and ability to follow random cues was the key: as the film introduced a Chicago villain, my boy leant over and murmured without preamble “Proper fucked”.

Possibly the rest of the audience were curious as to why I found that particular scene so funny, but he was absolutely right. I haven’t a clue what the actor’s name is either, but it was certainly him. And he was, as it turned out.