A woman vanishes in the fog up on "the Hill", an area locally known for its tranquility and peace. The police are not alarmed; people usually disappear for their own reasons. But when a young girl, an old man, and even a dog disappear, no one can deny that something untoward is happening in this quiet town.
Young policewoman Freya Graffham is assigned to the case; she's new to the job, compassionate, inquisitive, and dedicated. She and the enigmatic detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler have the task of unraveling the mystery behind this gruesome sequence of events.
©2004 Susan Hill (P)2011 AudioGo
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.
Reader. Wannabe writer. That's a picture of me standing in line to see Stephen King!
Men and women of various ages and one dog go missing without a trace in this small, quirky town. There's the good doctor concerned about the growing population of alternative medicine practitioners in her community, and there's the good cop concerned about the shrinking general population of her community. These concerns meet and merge and evolve into a pretty good murder mystery. Hill sets up her red herrings very nicely, and there is a surprising death toward the end, but near all of her back and side stories are left dangling!
We learn things about characters that imply there's more to come, there's more to learn about this person, but Hill leaves us unsatisfied, and without any hint that we will get what we want in later books. I can only imagine that she did this purposefully and these characters reappear in other stories. I'm going to fall for it this time and get book two, but this is Hill's last and only chance!
As an enthusiastic reader of British police procedurals, I was so pleased to find and thoroughly enjoy Book 1 of this series. Because Susan Hill is such a fine writer, it is more than a mere police procedural, however, and could be promoted to the category of fictional literature. I know that it is not everyone's cup of tea: the book is somewhat dark, and it does not follow a prescribed formula that we are accustomed to in books of this type.
The book tells a story of a series of puzzling disappearances in a fictional English cathedral town. Simon Serrailer is not convinced that they are connected, and it takes a detective sergeant working under him to convince him. The story does not proceed exactly as expected, and the author uses a number of unusual devices to help us get to know the characters better.
If you are a fan of "cozies" (and I enjoy a cozy myself now and again), then you might not like this book - I can see that it has received some unfavorable reviews. The ending is somewhat bleak, and yet I applaud the author for making this book realistic and eschewing the traditional happy ending.
There are a raft of characters, some of whom we can expect to find in additional books of this series, I hope. Simon Serrailer is an intriguing protagonist, and I hope to learn more about him and his family. I am downloading Book 2 as I write this, and look forward to reading the rest of the series.
House of Books
Wow. Lots of turns and twists in this novel. While I frequently don't solve the mystery--the whodunnit--before the denouement, I usually have a sense of everything. I wasn't prepared for the conclusion of this one. Again, wow! Granted, there are several red herrings, as there should be in a good mystery, but they serve a purpose by providing several parallels and perspectives. They require that readers consider various options, what they would be willing to do in some circumstances, and how far they would go to find answers and cures. Mystery novels function on several levels: they offer what probably happened, what could happen, what couldn't happen, and then what actually happened. Seldom is a police investigation straightforward. Nothing is straightforward here, which is as it should be. I will read other novels by Susan Hill. Looking for them now . . .
My favorite authors: Tess Gerritsen, Anne Perry, Deborah Crombie, & Lisa Scottoline. Also, MC Beaton/Marion Chesney writes hilarious fluff.
Poor title...the main character was NOT Simon Serrailler, but I suppose the author needs him to figure largely in the books later on in the series, so this was her way of introducing him (He isn't developed well and what you do find out doesn't make him terribly interesting or likeable).
While I like realism in my stories, I don't like for a book to be categorized as a "mystery" that's part of a "series" when it does not function in the same way that most books of the genre do (in other words, the series main character is NOT the main character, so you develop a relationship with the wrong character). It's at the very least, confusing to the reader - and at the worst, quite distressing. Many threads left undone, and one major, MAJOR problem with the outcome. Like a big kick in the gut! That's all I can say without writing a spoiler.
This is terribly unfortunate, because the writing is INCREDIBLY GOOD. I'm tempted to keep going with the series because the writing is so wonderful, but the heartache of the issues in this book makes me hesitate.
I gave the story three stars because there are issues with the plot that I personally don't like...but that doesn't mean they aren't written well or believeable.
I'd love to hear from other readers who went on to read more in this series after suffering through the issues in this book.
Retired "Okie" librarian & happy to have found Audible for good stories & staying in touch with new authors & books.
I am lucky to have found this author & started listening with this first in series. A good English mystery on the modern psychological thriller side, but no overt sex or violence. It is modern in the sense it looks at motives and different points of view. It brings British social life and issues into the mix. It was a good intelligent listen and then it ramped up into a real shocking thriller! Now teased into wanting to hear more of the lives of these police, family, and friends I have already bought more Hill's, Serrailler mysteries.
Pacey is excellent! His voice changes makes keeping the characters straight easier, builds the suspense, & is not distracting. I highly recommend this book.
Layered, detailed and heartbreaking
Freya realizing she had fallen in love. It was a nice moment.
I tried to read this book and found that listening to it added all the levels of emotion that are necessary to understand all of the characters.
The end. This is the ONLY mystery I have ever read that made me SAD and made me cry. Usually, mysteries are designed so that we are somehow able to absorb the deaths. They do not really move us because the important characters are somehow protected from harm. This mystery is all too real.
A deeply moving mystery. Susan Hill is a wonderful character writer. She is so careful and methodical, gradually building to the ultimate crescendo. It is like a piece of music. Those who can't face being discomfited by the cruel realities of crime should not read this, but I was completely absorbed.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
I'm pleased to find this series. Unusual, yes, unexpected, yes. But, from what's in "The Various Haunts of Men," it seems to me that Susan Hill can take her place among the elite of mystery writers. There's nothing cozy or formula about this story, but it's thoughtful, serious about human nature, and it feels true. I was truly hooked and moved by the characters and the emotion of the story.
Other reviews have mentioned the relatively short amount of time actually devoted to the man who is supposedly the "hero" of this series, Simon Serrailler. Let's just say that this book is enough to keep me moving forward in the series to find out more. And I'm happy to be doing so with this wonderful narrator, Steven Pacey.
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
Obviously, I'm in the minority here! Reading the many positive reviews, I feel I must be missing something.
As a tremendous Susan Hill fan, I was stunned at what a disappointment this book was. I expected a past master of the ghost story to be better suited to mystery writing. Mystery readers have a lot of expectations and I didn't feel Hill met many of them.
The book began well, but really bogged down in the middle, and the ending was utterly ridiculous. Some characters were well-drawn, while others seemed like cardboard cutouts pushed out on the stage of a toy theatre to "people the scene." The dialogue of characters was not well-differentiated. There was a lot of scene-painting and navel-gazing that could have been excised. And I think there was too much "sock puppetry" as the author put her own views into the mouths of one character after another, lending a preachy tone. (Polemics are for blogs and nonfiction).
When I purchased this, I also picked up "The Pure In Heart," but I am requesting a return of it after being so disappointed in this book. I hope the series improved, and well done if it did, but I'll leave it to others to find out. If you read this, I hope you'll find something wonderful in it I simply missed. Best of luck.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
I tried to like this one . . . the narration was good . . . but the story never quite "grabbed" me . . . it was very fragmented, the parts never very well pulled together, and it was hard for me to ever get very attached to the characters . . . it could have been told better in much less time . . . and there isn't really any moral to this tale.
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