©2004 Susan Hill; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Although set conventionally in a country cathedral city with pleasant villages around, this detective story is certainly not "cosy". It is presented in the format whereby the thoughts of a very creepy killer are interspersed between the thoughts and feelings of the victims and description of the police actions. In this respect it is extremely well written and although you may often suspect what is about to happen it is still frighteningly suspenseful and almost impossible to stop listening.
The book also highlights the particular gullibility of those who are unhappy or depressed and how easy it is for them to be exploited and manipulated by the unscrupulous.
The large and varied cast of civilian characters, even minor ones, are interesting and well described. DCI Simon Serailler is as yet a fascinating enigma and it is fortunate that there are further books to come where we mayl find out more about him and his team. It is good to see that they are also narrated by Steven Pacey who makes each character an individual and adds much to the enjoyment of listening to this book and I definitely look forward to listening to the rest of the series.
Susan Hill is equally good on the page and on audiobook. Steven Pacey's tone, pace and expression are well judged.
The Serrailler family is so well depicted that I feel I know them. I have a strong mental image of the farmhouse kitchen, Simon's flat and the cathedral close.
Crime fiction which concentrates on the 'why' as much as the 'who' appeals to me. The crime is always in a social and even, in the broadest sense, political context.
The narration is not overstated. As a listener one is aware of the content rather than the performance.
Susan Hill is in touch with the full range of human emotions and shares them with us intelligently.
My reviews are rather simple but only because I want to convey my impressions of a story. I leave summaries to the publisher. LOVE Audible!
I was very impressed with this book. It kind of reminded me of the style of Jussi-Adler Olsen and Steig Larrson. The story was suspenseful and moved at a comfortable pace.
I had really been looking forward to this one, but I wish someone had warned me about the milquetoast characters, the cliches, and the ridiculous emotions of the protagonist. This is like an attempt by a love-sick 14 year old school girl to write a script for an long episode of Criminal Minds. The protagonist is a Detective Sergeant - well placed in the police department - but she has no concerns about having a crush on her boss and mentally gushes like a teenager (she didn't want to delete a voicemail message so she could keep a recording of his voice). Of course, she is sure she will be the one woman who can turn him from his history of bad relationships so he will become a man of emotional substance and fidelity. When confronted with a suspect in her home, she asks politely for her cell phone that he had taken ("could you give that back please") and thinks about escaping to run and shout manically into the night for the police, apparently forgetting that she IS the police and should have better resources than that. I thought her an embarrassment to the police force, not just to female detectives.
There seemed to be an awful lot of emphasis on physical appearance and superficial surroundings, with frequent descriptions of everything from bodies and hairstyles, to food and decor. One detective was repeatedly referred to as being unattractive (I think the phrase "his monkey face" was used several times), while a victim was almost never mentioned without reference to her either being overweight or having acne. Is that what we''re supposed to focus on about these people? Is that supposed to make the more "real",interesting, or sympathetic? It makes me roll my eyes in exasperation. Then add in the occasional conversation on the glories of motherhood or the wonders of small-town living, and it gets even more juvenile, in my opinion.
The villain in cliched, the setting is cliched, the doctor is cliched, and the depiction of the police is either sexist or comically inept. I'd recommend you take a pass.
Susanna Di Milo
Yes, it was an interesting story.
I found the story engaging and I did not see a twist in the story coming. The killer is quite a chilling character and it kept me guessing who it was among the characters. I liked the way the story unfolded, it set a good pace.
no, but he read it very well.
A very good audio book, and the start of a detective series, I am looking forward to hearing more.
Before listening to The Various Haunts of Men I have read only one book by Susan Hill - The Man in the Picture - and was captivated by its gothic atmosphere and stylish writing. Perhaps that raised my bar too high. I was a bit dissapointed by this book. The plot is familiar to anyone who follows Midsomer Murders - cosy villages and toy towns harbouring deep secrets and a host of macabre characters. However, it is still masterfully written, if unoriginal and forgettable. The characters rather flat and anyone with interest in crime/ mystery genre will be having deja vu's many times. I could fare better with my credit...
Narrator is very good, though...
"Very well read"
This was very well read and enjoyable. However, I felt that, suddenly, the author ran out of steam and interest as the ending was rather abrupt and various story lines were left in the air. Up to this point it was very engrossing. Suitable for both men and women.
I couldn't put it down. Brilliant narrator, no stumbles or stutters apparent. Good plot and interesting characters who could be easily visualised. Would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery.
"An unusual crime thriller"
It took me a little time to get into this story, but once I did I was hooked into nearly 15 hours of a complex and surprising story. Susan Hill has avoided many of the cliches of crime fiction creating well-rounded and believable characters, including the police men and women. Unlike real-life, as befits the genre, the crimes are meticulously planned by a highly intelligent psychopath. I didn't twig who this was until it was revealed near the end of the book.
It's not just a well-crafted crime thriller, but also explores alternative versus conventional medical treatments as part of the fabric of the story. Initially I was concerned that the author might be trying to encourage patients with serious conditions, such as cancer, to try alternative medicine in place of effective treatments, but was relieved that this turned out not to be the case.
Steven Pacey's reading of the book is superb: he brings the different voices convincingly to life. I don't know how these readers manage it, but the best of them can switch from being female to male; young to old; regional accent to accent without caricaturing their voice.
"Wish I liked it more; hope to do better."
Susan Hill's early novels were of the serious sort still labelled 'literary' and I devoured them when they appeared. I became aware that she had turned herself into a more 'popular' author when she started a stint as scriptwriter on The Archers. This is the first book of hers I have read since then.
I don't read many crime novels, because I expect to find them formulaic, like so many TV shows. 'The Various Haunts of Men' is certainly a strongly characterised, rather surprising story - for one thing, a highly sympathetic character is killed off - and death is deeply felt, not just material for a puzzle.
My reservation, though, is that the author appears to be too fond of some of her people, making them almost cloyingly altruistic and unrelievedly kind, like the worst sort of soap-opera stalwarts. She depicts the police as 100% dedicated, unprejudiced public servants, which really they are not. Her female characters seem to be over-busy for a novel - always doing drop-scones and meticulously making beverages; which is rather a lazy way for a writer to imply the ordinary background to extraordinary events.
Despite these peevish criticisms, I was glad to have downloaded the book. It had a strong sense of place, one I look forward to revisiting in the sequels. Steven Pacey is an excellent reader, reminding me of the superb David Timson.
I disagree with two points made by other reviewers. First, I am fed up of every piece of art or entertainment being classified as 'for women/men'. This stupid commodification of EVERYTHING by the gender binary is just another marketing ploy that most people seem happy to buy into. Come on, we are all human beings, and we all need stories. There's a middle ground, and this book belongs in it, as do most well-written novels. Secondly, the ending of Susan Hill's book is perfectly in tune with tone of her narrative, which stresses psychological development, not merely suspense and satisfying retribution.
"Every word counts........."
This is a beautifully written book, and beautifully read. The characters are rounded and recognisable. These are the people we meet in our daily lives who are dealing with tragedy. The plot is lively and there are twists and turns. I enjoyed every second and thoroughly recommend it. This book will appeal to both men and women.
"A very good detective novel"
I've always been an enthusiastic reader of detective novels, but recently I've found my pallet getting a bit jaded. This, however, is very well written and a bit different. According to the blurb, it's the first of a series featuring Simon Serrailler, but Serrailler himself doesn't actually appear all that often and instead the novel is focused through others. It weaves together the narratives of several different characters, leaving you to guess how they all fit together and who the killer might be. The narrator reads clearly and effectively, differentiating the voices of different characters without overdoing it. It isn't a novel that you're going to keep coming back to, but it is a very enjoyable listen.
"An unusual way to start a series"
To start a crime series with a book that gives you quite a small glimpse of the central detective is definitely something that bit different. I heard about the Simon Serraller series via one of my favourite Radio 4 programmes "A Good Read" and the panel's discussion really made me prick up my ears. I was delighted to discover that the series was on audible and believe the whole experience has been made even better by an absolutely tremendous reader that I have not come across before. Full marks to Steven Pacey. I became absolutely wrapped up in the characters of this story, in the little details of their lives, some of which of course cleverly mirror your own. I think I am right in remembering another reviewer saying the end was poor and I too feel it lost its way a little. Having said that the main element of the 'end' will I am sure surprise you as much as it did me. I certainly hadn't seen it coming.
"Good solid crime story"
A good solid crime story with lots of dark corners to explore and some neat pen-portraits. So why only 4 stars? I felt the characters of Simon Serrailler and Freya Graffam to be a little cliche. There was a little bit too much of "woman escaping bad relationship to start again" in Freya and a little too much of the strong silent enigmatic alpha-male about Simon. Put those two aspects together and at times there were sections which read like a formulaic romance novel rather than a murder mystery. No reason why an author cannot have both romance and murder in one novel, but it needs to be done with more finesses than it is here. But that cannot take away from a sound plot and some other interesting characters. The ending is also good. I had already formed in my mind where the sequels would go with the characters only to have the rug pulled out from under me! Definately worth a read but bear in mind the peculiar treatment of the two main characters and read past the cliches if you can.
really enjoyed this audio book. its the first of series of three. iv already requested the second one for my next moths choice. easy to listen to. good characters & really well read. i get 'comfortable' with a lead character & the simon serrailler is 'most agreeable'! its definately worth a listen
"Don't go out alone!"
Susan Hill usually manages to scare the pants off me and has pulled this off (if you pardon the pun) with applomb. She manages to lull us into a sense of security in this sleepy little dormer town even though we know things are going on. Hill constucts a gradual psychological build up amongst a cast of well developed characters right up to the 'twist of the knife' ending. The reader - Stephen Pacey - skillfully brings each character to life, adding to the drama and climax of the story.
This is the first of Hill's 'Simon Serrailler' series and I'm looking forward to listening to others in the series providing I'm somewhere safe and with the lights on.
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