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Publisher's Summary

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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  • Overall

Best of the best....

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.

64 of 64 people found this review helpful

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A Really Good Find!

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.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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Didn't See It Coming!

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 . . .

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Telfair
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 01-05-15

Haunting Indeed

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.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Move over, Ruth Rendell and Elizabeth George

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.

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

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As Good as PD James

If you could sum up The Various Haunts of Men in three words, what would they be?

Layered, detailed and heartbreaking

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Various Haunts of Men?

Freya realizing she had fallen in love. It was a nice moment.

What does Steven Pacey bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

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.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Serrailler, Who Is Mysteriously Absent/Vague...

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.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Cidney
  • New Orleans, United States Minor Outlying Islands
  • 03-12-12

Missing Loose Ends? Got 'em Right Here!

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!

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Loved the narration, hated the book.

I was really looking forward to this because of all the four and five star reviews on both Goodreads and Audible, but I am in the minority after all: I hated this book.

It started promisingly enough, and reminded me very much of the work of Louise Penny: mysteries set in a bucolic little town, a "cathedral town" in this case, a police procedural but with an intense focus on the internal lives of a recurring set of main characters. I spent so much time learning about the nooks and crannies of the brains of multiple characters, I half expected to learn the doggie thoughts of a small terrier that makes an appearance at one point--but I didn't, partially because the terrier gets killed by the villain early on, and also I think the terrier is male. You don't learn a damn thing about the internal lives of any male characters in this novel, with the exception of the killer, and we'll get to that in a bit.

For the first half, it seemed that this novel was not just a mystery, but also a meditation on the nature of healing, and on the relationship between the healers and the people that they heal. I think it actually succeeds more on that basis than on the basis of being a mystery. As a mystery, it was terrible. But it had a lot of interesting observations to make about the practice of medicine and about being ill. The most compelling character for me was a minor character named Kathy, and her approach to her cancer and what happens with her. Her story was sad, but lovely and complex. However: Caring much at all for everyone else associated with the mystery that is the framework for the entire story? Not so much. When the killer strikes again halfway through, my reaction was "FINALLY", and frankly, that is not really the reaction one should have when someone gets brutally murdered. But it was a welcome respite from the internal emotional minutia to which the author subjects the reader for the entire first half of the book--and also the second half, let's just get right out and say it.

Spoilers after this:

As a mystery, why did this novel fail? During the second half, Hill seems to have decided to go ahead and write the mystery bit of the story, and so we become gradually more attuned to who the killer is, leading up to learning exactly who he is about three-fourths through the novel. The detective on his trail is not Simon Serrailler, but a female detective, new in town, named Freya Graffam. Freya is the main protagonist of this story, doggedly working a case that no one else believes in, but she's doomed to fail because the serial killer is really very good. She's basically got nothing until the killer starts to unravel all on his own and literally puts himself in her path, and then visits her to reveal himself because, of course, everyone knows that all serial killers are compelled to reveal themselves to their detective counterparts so they can monologue about why they did it. Why did this one do it? He hates women, natch. And terriers, he hates terriers.

Freya is a completely awesome and wonderful character, despite falling in love with DCI Simon Serrailleur, who is barely in this book. When he does make an appearance, he is consistently referred to in full as "DCI Simon Serrailler", with an implied sound of angels singing and heavenly light casting down echoing in the reader's brain. He's good looking, artistic, from a well-off and industrious family but he's just enough of an outsider in his family to be cool and intriguing. He loves women, but is hampered by an emotional failure to launch.

Freya, with whom we spend so much time in the course of the novel, ends up being merely "meat in the room". She gets killed off in the end, in either a sad bid to garner pathos, or just to get her out of the way to make room for Simon to take the stage in the next novel. The problem was, by the end of the book, I couldn't care less about the dude. Where was he when all the s*** was going down? Who cares? Meanwhile, Freya's unofficial partner in the case, a young rough and tumble policeman with a heart of gold AND from a tough background is disturbingly described multiple times as having a "monkey face".

Nope. Just Nope. This book needs some Nick Angel and Danny Butterman, STAT.

Lastly: Steven Pacey? Awesome!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing book from an excellent writer

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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful