One of my favorite series of all times, these books by Susan Hill featuring the enigmatic Simon Serrailler, the non-doctor, third-of-a-set-of-triplets, contemplative sort of police detective who outdoes Adam Dagleish every time. "The Various Haunts of Men" is the first in the series, and while not exactly required to read or listen to them in order, it helps.
This book has everything -- story, fascinating and complex chatacters, family issues, a baffling crime (ie series of crimes), plenty of tension and maybe most importantly, a whole string of people you come to care about, many of whom continue into subsequent books.
Susan Hill is remarkable. No one creates characters like she does, and no one spins original stories with more veracity. These are people you know, with all their strengths and faults, their hidden sins and unexpected virtues.
Steven Pacey's narration is perfect -- just the right pace and tone.
The only real problem with these books is pacing yourself -- there aren't that many, and you can only read them for the first time once.
'Chiefs' completely blew me away -- who knew? I've read several of Stuart Woods other books, the Stone Barrington and Ed Eagle series in particular, and they were fine, nothing to really write home about. So I wasn't too excited when I saw this one on Audible. But? It was on sale, and it was long -- a prime requirement for me -- so what the heck? Why not?
Boy, was I wrong. "Chiefs" grabs you from the very first minutes and doesn't let go -- I literally cancelled two appointments this afternoon -- no way was I going to stop listening until I finished it. This was Katherine Stockett's "The Help" meets Robert Penn Warren's classic "All the King's Men", although arguably better than either. As a novel of southern culture, spanning three generations, as viewed through three very different men who served as chief of police in a small southern town, it's hard to imagine anything better than this one.
Few books draw you so completely into the character's lives as does "Chiefs". This is consummate storytelling. As each of the three segments finished, I was sad to see it end, figuring the next segment surely wouldn't be as good as the one I'd just finished. But I was never disappointed. Each was compelling in its own way.
It's really too bad it's being advertised as a "serial killer" book. Yes, that's an element, but that's sort of like saying that chocolate cake is about the sugar. Yes, that's an element, but that misses the point. This is a novel, not really detective fiction, as such. It's a story of courage and cowardice, of home and running away, of race, black and white, good men and evil scattered throughout. True, it's the 'killer' angle that ties the three administrations together, but that's really not the focus of the story.
I couldn't help comparing the whole situation to that of John Grisham. This was Stuart Woods first book -- written long before he published any of the more traditional detective fiction books he's more famous for. Yet "Chiefs" is so far above and beyond anything that Woods has written since, it's sometimes hard to believe it's the same author.
Same with Grisham. The first book he wrote -- "A Time To Kill" -- wasn't published until he'd already written and sold several other more traditional legal thrillers. Similarly, "A Time to Kill" is by far Grisham's finest work, although I'd admit "A Painted House" comes close in terms of literary merit. And also similarly, 'A Time to Kill" isn't really about rape and punishment, it's about the life and times of the people involved, the society in which these things happened. So it is with "Chiefs".
I know I will listen to this book again and again. If you haven't read or listened to it yet, you've got a real treat ahead of you. Don't miss this one. It's a classic.
I've read this book several times -- never seen either of the film adaptations -- so I knew the story well. I thought it would be fun to have someone read it to me for a change.
It was. I loved the introduction at the beginning -- told a little bit about the book when it was published in 1953, when Ira Levin was just 23 years old, about how it was received back then. That set the stage.
Suffice it to say that the audible version is a total delight, doesn't disappoint in the slightest. It's stood the test of time very well -- nothing in it is old, everything could happen just as easily today as it did back them.
Most fascinating was thinking about the mind of the author, Ira Levin-- how he could come up with this innovative plot, then move on to works like 'Deathtrap', surely one of the most pleasantly confounding plays ever produced. Then to move on to the Nazi thriller, 'The Boys from Brazil' then 'Rosemary's Baby' -- a very different genre.. After that, 'Sliver' -- also outstanding -- and 'The Stepford Wives', a classic in its own right And all this from an author who's first produced play was the comedy "No Time for Sergeants"!
I've loved every one of Levin's books for different reasons. I'm so happy the Audible made "A Kiss Before Dying" available in audio, and hope that both 'Sliver' -- which is much like 'Kiss' in many ways -- and "The Stepford Wives" will be available soon, too. Although the film version of that, starring Katherine Ross and Tine Louise, of all people, was very good, it doesn't compare to the written version. Levin's books are really are classics, all of them. I know I'll listen to "Kiss" again and again. It's just a very very good book.