Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

Title: The Various Haunts of Men
Author: Susan Hill
ISBN: 978-1-58567-876-1, Overlook Press, 2007
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Simon Serrailler mystery
Rating: B+

First Line: Last week I found a letter from you.

Detective Sergeant Freya Graffham has left London and the Metropolitan Police for the small cathedral town of Lafferton. She doesn't miss London a bit and wastes no time in exploring her new home. She fits in well with her fellow officers and is intrigued by Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler. Graffham is a very intuitive person, and there's something about a missing persons case involving an older woman named Angela Randall that she just can't let go. When other people in the area begin to go missing, Graffham senses she really is on to something. Is there a killer preying on the people of this small town?

The Various Haunts of Men moves very slowly and deliberately until the last hundred pages when it really picks up speed. The pacing almost mirrors that of the killer. I knew the killer's identity very early on, but as only a secondary matter of importance, it didn't ruin the book for me at all. Hill's focus was squarely on her characters and setting her stage for the other books to follow in the series.

I try my best to avoid spoilers in my reviews, so I must limit my remarks with regard to this book. Hill's characters were brilliant-- perfect for a character-driven reader like me-- but the weakest of the lot was Simon Serrailler himself. Everyone seemed to put him on such a high pedestal that it's a wonder he didn't get a nosebleed, and he was so enigmatic that it was almost impossible to "read"or like him. I'm tempted to say that I wasn't all that impressed with him, but I have a strong feeling that I was set up by Hill, so I'm reserving judgment until I've read the next book in the series.

Read it (The Pure in Heart) I will because Hill has populated her stage with one of the more intriguing casts of characters I've encountered in a long time. She also has shown right from this beginning that she's quite willing to take risks with them. I definitely want to see what she does next.

[Source: Purchased through the Zooba Book Club.]


  1. I've got this one next up but one on my TBR pile - shall be curious to see how I react - have heard great things from some and I'm always wary when that happens.

  2. Cathy - Thanks for the well-done review. Like Bernadette, I haven't read it, but you've intrigued me. Bernadette, I'll be looking forward to seeing what you think of it, too.

  3. Fine review, and I agree 100 % on what you say about Simon Serrailler. It annoyed me a bit that it was called ´a Simon Serrailler´ story at all.

    I have read and reviewed the second; again she is strong on characters, but I was not at all impressed by the ending. So my solution with regard to Ms Hill is that I may borrow the following books, but I am not going to buy any of them.

  4. I read this back in June and I concur with your and Dorte's comments. For me, the mystery was not the reason I enjoyed the book. Rather, it is Hill's style, her ability to build a picture of Lafferton and its people that makes me feel like I was there.

    For those planning to read it, and I do recommend it, there isn't much in the way of police procedural activity and, as others have pointed out, Simon Serrailler doesn't figure into it very much. I actually found his family more interesting.

  5. I've read Strange Meeting, and didn't realize it was the same author until I clicked that little author link you have at the top. I wonder now if I'd like more of her works.

  6. Love the cover, love Police Procedurals, love books set in England. I must say this sounds very interesting.

  7. I like these characters. Hill puts more personal details in her police procedurals than most and I've really enjoyed the series. I've read all four so far. The Risk of Darkness and The Vows of Silence follow The Pure in Heart and are worth reading too. Glad you reviewed these and brought them to people's attention.

  8. This sounds like a series that will only improve with age.

  9. Bernadette-- Me, too. That sometimes prevents me from reading a book until everything quiets down!

    Margot K-- If you're anything like me, you always look forward to one of Bernadette's reviews!

    Dorte-- I'd already come to that conclusion. If I can't get them through Paperback Swap or other means, I won't be reading them because I won't buy them.

    Mack-- I agree, I found his family much more interesting than he was.

    Jeane-- You just might. It certainly wouldn't hurt to try another. Hill has one out now that's garnering attention: Howard's End Is on the Landing.

    Caite-- It is. I hope you give it a try.

    Sandra-- I sometimes follow along a few years behind everyone else. :)

    Kathy-- It should. It will be interesting to see if it does.


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!