Although set conventionally in a country cathedral city with pleasant villages around, this detective story is certainly not "cosy". It is presented..Show More » 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.
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..Show More », 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.
I love the Serraillier series; i have read all of them (even the new one that is only published in the UK) the plot lines are picked up, characters ar..Show More »e not forgotten, and the richness of the stories, the length of time and depth spent with them is wonderful! Do Not Miss! Read them all! The narrator is great too!
I found the first book in the series quite difficult to get into, but once I did I was hooked and am now in the middle of Book 4. I like the fact tha..Show More »t the main character, Simon Serrailler is quite socially awkward and has many contradictions, and but most of all I think the narration is the one of the best I've heard. Steven Pacey is excellent and the story moves quickly through many twists and turns.
This is a great audio to run to and I've found this last week I've gone a km or more out of my way to keep listening. Would definitely recommend.
Susan Hill is a new (to me :) )British author I've been listening to/reading. It's always a pleasure to find an author you really like who has been w..Show More »riting for awhile, so there is a treasure trove of sorts to plunder. (Phil Rickman, Deborah Crombie (albeit an american who writes British mysteries,) and Christopher Fowler are other audible mystery recommendations (to me) with a collection of brilliant novels to revel in days, weeks or however much time you have to devote to listening to books.) I am constantly listening again and again to the Rickman and Crombie novels as well as Fowler's. I expect to do so with Ms. Hill's Serrailler books.
I normally do not write recommendations but feel motivated to do so because the Simon Serrailler books need to be read in order. (Note Ms. Hill states otherwise on her web site, however, . . ,) The reason? The stories, plot and characters lives, are built upon in each new book. Where one plot starts in an earlier novel, it continues on and into the the following books. By reading Vows of Silence first, I was flung into a world of which its foundations were set forth in the earlier novels. I hope audible picks up the first novel and the most recent one.
As I read the books available on audible backwards in time I realized how much more I would have enjoyed them if read in order. But for me, it just means I will get to read them again, now in order, and appreciate the characters as there were truly intended to be.
I was really anticipating listening to this book because although I’ve heard radio adaptations of some of Susan Hill’s stories, I had never read a nov..Show More »el. She is highly acclaimed, and this novel seemed right down my alley. I also really enjoy Steven Pacey as a narrator. I did read in some reviews that Hill goes off on a few tangents, but I’m usually tolerant of some digressions, so I went ahead and bought this one. That was a mistake. I wanted a MYSTERY, but this novel doesn’t even introduce the crime until about one-third through. Further, Simon Serailler, the supposed main character is out of the picture for a good portion of the story. Especially irritating were the prolonged discussions of church politics. The book is well-written and engaging for what it actually is, and Pacey does an excellent job; I did listen to it. It is, however, NOT primarily a mystery. Because I did like the characters and Hill is a good writer, I will probably try another novel in this series, but this one was a bit of a dud.
Most of the professional reviews of the Simon Serrailler books -- of which this is number six -- talk about 'crime fiction'. In this book, the blurbs..Show More » note that Detective. Serrailler is trying to solve the mystery of two young girls who disappeared. That's true of course -- that's one story line, and a fine one it is. But there are many more fictional genres woven into these books -- there's the family saga of the inherently fascinating Serrailler family themselves, where a set of now-adult triiplets (Simon is one) were pretty much forced by their demanding and uncompromising father to take up the family profession, medicine. Dr. Cat Dearborn did, Dr. Ido Serrailler did -- but then left for Australia, never to return. So far, anyway.
But Simon, also a gifted artist, refused to study medicine and took up police work instead, a choice he continues to suffer for. The family dynamic in these books is endlessly fascinating -- Dr. Cat's young (doctor) husband recently passed away, leaving her a young widow with responsibilities not only for running their clinic but for their kids as well, some of whom aren't doing as well as they'd like. And then there's Simon's inability -- or unwillingness -- to commit himself to a woman, a theme which continues in this book in a totally unique way.
But each book also addresses a contemporary social issue -- this one involves questions of life and death, specifically who should make the decision about when to die. There's a story line in this book about Jocelyn, a 73 year old woman with a not only incurable disease, but one which will soon bring about a very painful and lingering death. The story of Jocelyn is some of the best writing of this entire series. There was one segment when I was listening so hard I hardly dared breathe, I was so afraid of missing a word. In terms of psychological suspense, this is the best example I've ever read. In terms of "tense", fiction just doesn't get any better than this.
Then there's the unscrupulous death-masters, in Switzerland and elsewhere, who prey on suffering people wishing to end it all with an "assisted suicide". It's said that if you want to learn the truth, you must read fiction, and in that sense, this is the greatest book on the subject anywhere -- not that it will give you answers, but that it makes you ask the questions. Who gets to play Gd? Does anyone? That's one of the recurring themes in this book, and to some extent, in different ways, all the characters find themselves addressing that issue.
Maybe Susan Hill's greatest genius is that she weaves all this together in a 'can't put it down' format -- there's nothing preachy about these books, nothing scholarly, or nothing that would appear to be so. Just strings of absolutely fascinating storytelling, tales of lives so good you simply can't wait for the next book, so you go back and listen to the earlier ones again. And she always leaves a few strings dangling, too -- stories left unfinished, not that it's necessary. Having read one of these books, there's no way you won't be holding your hands out, waiting for the next.