Read The Pure in Heart Online

Authors: Susan Hill

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Crime

The Pure in Heart



About the Book

About the Author

Also by Susan Hill


Title Page


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

Chapter Thirty-three

Chapter Thirty-four

Chapter Thirty-five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-seven

Chapter Thirty-eight

Chapter Thirty-nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-one

Chapter Forty-two

Chapter Forty-three

Chapter Forty-four

Chapter Forty-five

Chapter Forty-six

Chapter Forty-seven

Chapter Forty-eight

Chapter Forty-nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-one

Chapter Fifty-two

Chapter Fifty-three

Chapter Fifty-four

Chapter Fifty-five

Chapter Fifty-six

Chapter Fifty-seven

Chapter Fifty-eight

Chapter Fifty-nine

Chapter Sixty

Chapter Sixty-one

Chapter Sixty-two

Chapter Sixty-three

Chapter Sixty-four

Chapter Sixty-five

Chapter Sixty-six

Chapter Sixty-seven



About the Book

It is spring in the quiet English cathedral town of Lafferton when a little boy is snatched as he stands with his satchel at the gate of his home, waiting for his lift to school. Meanwhile a severely handicapped young woman hovers between life and death and an ex-con finds it impossible to go straight...

Haunting and truthful, gripping and convincing,
The Pure in Heart
is neither
a thriller nor a whodunnit, but a fascinating crime novel and an utterly absorbing read.

About the Author

Susan Hill’s novels and short stories have won the Whitbread, Somerset Maugham and John Llewellyn Rhys awards and been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She is the author of over forty books, including the four Serrailler crime novels,
The Various Haunts of Men
The Pure in Heart
The Risk of Darkness
The Vows of Silence
. Her most recent novel is
A Kind Man
. The play adapted
from her famous ghost story,
The Woman in Black
, has been running on the West End stage since 1989.

Susan Hill was born in Scarborough and educated at King’s College London. She is married to the Shakespeare scholar, Stanley Wells, and they have two daughters. She lives in Gloucestershire, where she runs her own small publishing company, Long Barn Books.

Susan Hill’s website is


Featuring Simon Serrailler

The Various Haunts of Men

The Risk of Darkness

The Vows of Silence


Gentleman and Ladies

A Change for the Better

I’m the King of the Castle

The Albatross and Other Stories

Strange Meeting

The Bird of Night

A Bit of Singing and Dancing

In the Springtime of the Year

The Woman in Black

Mrs de Winter

The Mist in the Mirror

Air and

The Service of Clouds

The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read

The Man in the Picture

The Beacon

The Small Hand

A Kind Man


The Magic Apple Tree


Howards End is on the Landing

Children’s Books

One Night at a Time

Can it be True?

The Glass Angels

The Battle for Gullywith



The Pure in Heart

A Simon Serrailler Crime Novel

Blessed are the pure in heart:

for they shall see God

The Gospel According to St Matthew


At first light the mist was soft and smoky over the lagoon and it was cold enough for Simon Serrailler to be glad of his heavy donkey jacket. He stood on the empty Fondamenta, collar turned up, waiting, cocooned in the muffled silence. Dawn on a Sunday morning in March was not a time for much activity on this side of Venice, where few tourists came; the working city was at rest and even the
early churchgoers were not yet about.

He always stayed here, in the same couple of rooms he rented above an empty warehouse belonging to the friend, Ernesto, who would appear any moment to take him across the water. The rooms were comfortable and plain and filled with wonderful light from the sky and the water. They were quiet at night, and from the Fondamenta Simon could walk about among the
hidden backwaters, looking out for things he wanted to draw. He had been here at least once, and usually twice a year for the last decade. It was a working place and a bolt-hole from his life as a Detective Chief Inspector, as were similar hideouts in Florence
and Rome. But it was in Venice that he felt most at home, to Venice he always returned.

The putter of an engine came just ahead of the
craft itself, emerging close beside him out of the silvery mist.


‘Ciao, Ernesto.’

The boat was small and workmanlike, without any of the romance or trimmings of traditional Venetian craft. Simon put his canvas bag under the seat and then stood up beside the boatman as they swung round and headed across the open water. The mist settled like cobwebs on their faces and hands and for a
while Ernesto slowed right down until, suddenly, they seemed to cut a channel through the whiteness and emerge into a hazy buttery light beyond which Simon could see the island ahead.

He had been to San Michele several times before to wander about, looking, recording in his mind’s eye – he never used a camera – and he knew that at this hour, with luck, he would find it deserted even of the elderly
arthritic widows who came in their black to tend the family graves.

Ernesto did not chat. He was not a voluble Italian. He was a baker, still working out of the cavernous kitchen generations of his family had used, still delivering the fresh hot bread round the canals. But he would be the last, he said, every time Simon came; his sons were not interested, they were off at universities in Padua
and Genoa, his daughter
was married to the manager of a hotel near San Marco; when he stopped baking the ovens would go cold.

Venice was changing, Venetian trades were in decline, the young would not stay, were not interested in the hard life of daily work by boat. Venice would die soon. Simon found it impossible to believe, hard to take the prophecies of doom seriously when the ancient, magical
city was still here, floating above the lagoon after thousands of years and in spite of all predictions. Somehow, somehow, it would survive, and the real Venice, too, not merely the overloaded and expensive tourist city. The people who lived and worked in the backwaters of the Zattere and the Fondamenta and the canals behind the railway station, and would still do so in a hundred years’ time,
propping one another up, servicing the hotels and the tourist area.

But ‘Venice she dying’, Ernesto said again, waving his hand at San Michele, the island of the dead; soon this was all there would be, one great graveyard.

They swung up to the landing stage and Simon climbed out with his bag.

‘Lunchtime,’ Ernesto said. ‘Noon.’

Simon waved his hand and walked off towards the cemetery, with
its well-tended paths and florid marble memorials.

The sound of the motor boat faded away almost at once, so that all he could hear were his own
footsteps, some early-morning birdsong and, otherwise, the extraordinary quietness.

He had been right. No one else was here – no bowed old women with black headscarves, no families with small boys in long shorts carrying bunches of bright flowers, no
workmen hoeing the weeds out of the gravel.

It was still cool, but the mist had lifted and the sun was rising.

He had first come upon the memorial a couple of years before and made a mental note about it, but he had been spending most of his time that year at all hours of the day among the market stalls, drawing the piles of fruit and fish and vegetables, the crowds, the stall holders and had
not had time or energy to take in the burial island in detail.

He reached it and stopped. On top of the stone plinth was an angel with folded wings, perhaps ten feet high and flanked by three cherubs, all with bent heads and expressions of grief, all gravely, impassively beautiful. Although they were idealised, Simon was sure they had originally been taken from life. The date on the grave was
1822, and the faces of the angels were characteristically Venetian, faces you still saw today, in elderly men on the vaporetto and young men and women promenading in their designer clothes on weekend evenings along the riva degli Schiavoni. You saw the face in the great paintings in the churches, and as cherubs and saints and virgins and prelates and humble citizens gazing upwards. Simon was fascinated
by it.

He found a place to sit, on a ledge of one of the adjacent monuments, and took out his drawing pads and pencils. He had also made himself a flask of coffee and brought some fruit. The light was still hazy and it was not warm. But he would be absorbed here now for the next three hours or so, only breaking off to stretch his legs occasionally by walking up and down the paths. At twelve Ernesto
would return for him. He would take his things back to the flat, then go for a Campari and lunch at the trattoria he used most of the time he was here. Later, he would sleep before going out to walk into the busier parts of the city, perhaps taking a vaporetto the length of the Grand Canal and back for the delight of riding on the water between the ancient, crumbling, gilded houses, seeing
the lights come on.

His days scarcely varied. He drew, walked, ate and drank, slept, looked. He did not think much about home and his other, working life.

This time, though …

He knew why he was drawn to San Michele and the statue of the wildly grieving angels, just as he had haunted the dark, incense-filled little churches in odd corners of the city, wandering about inside, watching the same
old widows in black kneeling with their rosary beads or lighting candles at one of the stands.

The death of Freya Graffham, who had been a DS under him at Lafferton Police Station for such a short time, had affected him far more than he might have expected and for longer. It was a year since her
murder and he was still haunted by the horror of it and by the fact that his emotions had been engaged
by her in a way he had not admitted to himself while she had been alive.

His sister Dr Cat Deerbon had said he was allowing himself to feel more deeply for Freya simply because she was dead and so unable to respond and therefore unthreatening.

Had he felt threatened? He understood perfectly well what his sister meant but perhaps, with Freya, it had been different.

He shifted his weight and
resettled the sketch pad on his knees. He was not drawing the whole statue but the face of each angel and cherub individually; he intended to come back again to do the complete monument and then work up each drawing until he was satisfied. His next exhibition would be his first in London. Everything had to be right.

Half an hour later he got up to stretch his legs. The cemetery was still deserted
and the sun was full out now, warming his face as he walked up and down the path between the black and white and grey gravestones. Several times on this particular visit to Venice Simon had wondered if he might even come to live here. He had always been passionate about his job – he had taken the opposite path to that of his entire family, doctors for three generations – but the pull of this
other life, of drawing and perhaps living abroad to do so, had become increasingly strong since Freya’s death.

He was thirty-five. He would make Superintendent before long. He wanted it.