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The Various Haunts of Men

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Having transferred to the small cathedral town of Lafferton from London's "Met," police detective Freya Graffham explores her new community and becomes fascinated by Chief Insp. Simon Serrailler, her enigmatic superior. Though she fits well within the local police force, she finds herself unable to let go what seems like a routine missing persons report on a middle-aged sp Having transferred to the small cathedral town of Lafferton from London's "Met," police detective Freya Graffham explores her new community and becomes fascinated by Chief Insp. Simon Serrailler, her enigmatic superior. Though she fits well within the local police force, she finds herself unable to let go what seems like a routine missing persons report on a middle-aged spinster. When yet more townspeople turn up missing, her hunch is verified and a serious police search begins, bringing her into closer proximity with Serrailler at the same time it exposes her to danger.


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Having transferred to the small cathedral town of Lafferton from London's "Met," police detective Freya Graffham explores her new community and becomes fascinated by Chief Insp. Simon Serrailler, her enigmatic superior. Though she fits well within the local police force, she finds herself unable to let go what seems like a routine missing persons report on a middle-aged sp Having transferred to the small cathedral town of Lafferton from London's "Met," police detective Freya Graffham explores her new community and becomes fascinated by Chief Insp. Simon Serrailler, her enigmatic superior. Though she fits well within the local police force, she finds herself unable to let go what seems like a routine missing persons report on a middle-aged spinster. When yet more townspeople turn up missing, her hunch is verified and a serious police search begins, bringing her into closer proximity with Serrailler at the same time it exposes her to danger.

30 review for The Various Haunts of Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is well written and kept me engaged, although I got confused many times by the author's introduction of yet another new character. We are allowed inside their thoughts which is intriguing, but seemed like window dressing as most of them are not integral to the plot. There is a prolonged discussion too about illness and about the pros and cons of medical doctors versus holistic and alternate therapists. All of which was again not necessary to the story, but was interesting. The worst thing th This is well written and kept me engaged, although I got confused many times by the author's introduction of yet another new character. We are allowed inside their thoughts which is intriguing, but seemed like window dressing as most of them are not integral to the plot. There is a prolonged discussion too about illness and about the pros and cons of medical doctors versus holistic and alternate therapists. All of which was again not necessary to the story, but was interesting. The worst thing this writer does is break with traditional story lines and kill off the main detective that you have grown to admire and sympathize with. This is subtitled a Simon Serrailler mystery, but he was barely mentioned in the text, all we are told about him is he is handsome, cold, artistic, and competent at his job as head of police.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    I was surprised that I liked this book so much. The beginning was slow; probably the first half was devoted to introducing and developing characters. As an older publication, the book represents a different time when books were not rushed to a twisted ending. So, I was prepared for the slower pace. Halfway through the book, though, the pace picked up a bit and I was thoroughly invested right to the end. Although labeled a “Simon Serrailler” book, the lead character is DS Freya Graffham. Freya is I was surprised that I liked this book so much. The beginning was slow; probably the first half was devoted to introducing and developing characters. As an older publication, the book represents a different time when books were not rushed to a twisted ending. So, I was prepared for the slower pace. Halfway through the book, though, the pace picked up a bit and I was thoroughly invested right to the end. Although labeled a “Simon Serrailler” book, the lead character is DS Freya Graffham. Freya is newly divorced and has left London to become a new resident of Lafferton. She’s finding happiness in Lafferton; her home is perfect, she loves her job, she’s making friends, she’s taking up hobbies that she dropped to please her now ex-husband. At work, she’s sensing something more sinister in a missing persons case. Ultimately, there’s three missing women and they are well developed characters, as are their closest friends. We meet Simon briefly at first and then later in the book, and he is a puzzle. He is one of a set of triplets, but very unlike either sibling. We meet his family, who for generations have been doctors, and Simon has displeased his father by becoming a detective. I enjoyed this book so much that immediately after closing the cover, I ordered the second book in the series from the library. This is an author whose writing appeals to me, and I really want to read more of this series.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    I loved Susan Hill's The Woman in Black, and so I was excited to read this first book in a series of hers. I will concede that Susan Hill is an excellent writer, and as a mystery, this book was indeed well written. However, I ended up feeling sucker punched by the ending, not something that endears a book to me. Also, it's a Simon Serrailler series, but he was more of a minor, inconsequential character in this story. I was quite taken with the character of Freya Graffham, and I actually would ha I loved Susan Hill's The Woman in Black, and so I was excited to read this first book in a series of hers. I will concede that Susan Hill is an excellent writer, and as a mystery, this book was indeed well written. However, I ended up feeling sucker punched by the ending, not something that endears a book to me. Also, it's a Simon Serrailler series, but he was more of a minor, inconsequential character in this story. I was quite taken with the character of Freya Graffham, and I actually would have loved a series about her rather than the flat Simon Serrailler character. I felt that the author betrayed me by gaining my investment in certain characters of this story and then knocking the legs out from under me with her insistence that anything less than a tragically unhappy ending would be beneath her. The killer's last victim seemed to be a gratuitous throw-in of the author wanting to shock us one last time. I don't often react angrily to a book, but this one just made me mad at the end. I doubt that I will pick up the next in the series.

  4. 5 out of 5

    LJ

    THE VARIOUS HAUNTS OF MEN (Pol. Proc-DS Freya Graffam-England-Cont) – NR Hill, Susan – 1st in series Chatto & Windus, 2004, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 185619714x First Sentence: Last week I found a letter from you. In a small English cathedral town, a 53-year-old single woman disappears while on her daily run on “The Hill.” DS Freya Graffam searches the woman’s cottage for clues and finds a hidden present; a pair of expensive cufflinks and a note saying “To You, with all possible love from your devoted, M THE VARIOUS HAUNTS OF MEN (Pol. Proc-DS Freya Graffam-England-Cont) – NR Hill, Susan – 1st in series Chatto & Windus, 2004, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 185619714x First Sentence: Last week I found a letter from you. In a small English cathedral town, a 53-year-old single woman disappears while on her daily run on “The Hill.” DS Freya Graffam searches the woman’s cottage for clues and finds a hidden present; a pair of expensive cufflinks and a note saying “To You, with all possible love from your devoted, Me.” It is surprising as no one knew the woman had been seeing any one. As Freya investigates, she also finds a number of other people who have disappeared from “The Hill” as well. I was annoyed by this book almost from the first page. I felt drowned in a minutia of detail which had no real relevance to the plot. There are too many strands to the plot, many of which are just left hanging at the end. Many of the characters begin as interesting but, again, fade off to nothing. This is supposed to be a “Simon Serrailler” book, but his presence in the story is negligible. The subject of conventional versus non-conventional medicine could have been interesting but becomes rambling instead. The book is overlong and I lost interest about half-way through the book and skimmed from there on until toward the end. I was underwhelmed by the killer’s motive and annoyed to have the killer revealed significantly before the end of the book. The end of this book was one that moved it into the category of a wall-banger for me. This book has been sitting on my shelf since 2004. I regret having wasted the time to read it and even more, wasted the money to buy it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    I’m a little conflicted with this one as I could understand what Susan Hill was trying to achieve, I just think it will miss the mark for most readers... Whilst this is billed as the first Simon Serrailler case it’s actually Detective Sergeant Freya Graffham who gains the most focus, having transferred from the met to the quite cathedral town of Lafferton. The slower change of pace is reflected in the opening half of the novel, which some readers may like - but I was desperate for something to hap I’m a little conflicted with this one as I could understand what Susan Hill was trying to achieve, I just think it will miss the mark for most readers... Whilst this is billed as the first Simon Serrailler case it’s actually Detective Sergeant Freya Graffham who gains the most focus, having transferred from the met to the quite cathedral town of Lafferton. The slower change of pace is reflected in the opening half of the novel, which some readers may like - but I was desperate for something to happen to keep me hooked. There’s a certain first episode feel about this entry as the various people Freya meets really sets the tone for the setting of this series. I think theirs an audience for this type of story, but I prefer something to really get sucked into. I think I’ll stick to Hill’s spooky stories instead...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    WOW would be the one-word review, but perhaps you want more information than that... This is a classic contemporary British mystery, complete with a cathedral town (Lafferton), a tantalizingly aloof Chief Inspector (Simon Serrailler), and a cast of wonderfully drawn supporting players whose side stories are interesting enough to make you forget the mystery at the heart of the novel. People have gone missing from "The Hill," once considered a place of tranquil walks and spiritual renewal. They sha WOW would be the one-word review, but perhaps you want more information than that... This is a classic contemporary British mystery, complete with a cathedral town (Lafferton), a tantalizingly aloof Chief Inspector (Simon Serrailler), and a cast of wonderfully drawn supporting players whose side stories are interesting enough to make you forget the mystery at the heart of the novel. People have gone missing from "The Hill," once considered a place of tranquil walks and spiritual renewal. They share nothing in common, so when recent transfer to the department Freya Graffham tries to make a case that they are connected, CI Serrailler isn't convinced. She plugs away at proving her theory even as she finds herself hopelessly drawn to Serrailler. Subplots include alternative healing (crucial not only to the story line, but emotionally engaging since it is an avenue pursued by what we can only hope is a recurring character); the estrangement between Simon and his father; and budding romances and enduring relationships tested to their limits. "The Various Haunts of Men" opens and is interspersed with sections of "The Tape," composed by an obviously deranged character -- they offer no real clues for the longest time, but they contribute mightily to the growing sense of dread and cast a delicious pall. Fans of Ruth Rendell and Elizabeth George should flock to this one, and they will not be disappointed.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    This book forever changed the way I read - and not in a good way. Prior to reading "The Various Haunts of Men", I didn't want to know "what was gonna happen". I wanted to read the book front to back, and not know the ending. The natural progression - enjoy the surprise at the book's climax, and feel complete at the end. Not any more. I was so angry with the horrible ending of "Various Haunts", it destroyed my enjoyment of the author's gifted writing. I will never again read anything by Susan Hill This book forever changed the way I read - and not in a good way. Prior to reading "The Various Haunts of Men", I didn't want to know "what was gonna happen". I wanted to read the book front to back, and not know the ending. The natural progression - enjoy the surprise at the book's climax, and feel complete at the end. Not any more. I was so angry with the horrible ending of "Various Haunts", it destroyed my enjoyment of the author's gifted writing. I will never again read anything by Susan Hill. Yes, she's talented, but when I invest my time (and money) in a book, I want some reward at the end. Either gain more knowledge, or be entertained....something. I don't want to be left feeling bad. I can get depressed by reading the news - for free. Now, I want to know how a book ends before I read it. I read all the "spoilers" I can find before I commit to a book. The story revolves around a policewoman, Freya Graffham, in a small city in England. I considered her to be the main character in the novel....the heroine. Her boss, Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler remained much in the background, even though the author meant for him to be the main character since the series is based on Serrailler. Serrailler was depicted as handsome and women supposedly desired him, but this was implied, not actually shown in a scene. He remained an enigma throughout, as if the author hadn't yet decided on who/what Serrailler would be. What little was written about Serrailler caused me to perceive him as thinking he was "too good" for Freya - only interested in more beautiful, higher-class type women. He was reserved and stand-offish. Although there was minimal contact between Freya and Serrailler, she became romantically attracted to him, but loved him silently from afar, almost sophomoric hero worship. This is a mystery novel, not a romance, so if you're not going to develop the romance, why even introduce it in the first place? This is where the author missed out with me. She could have developed this series into a great one with mystery and romance both. Not bludgeoned me with a devastating ending. Freya was a good detective, and became convinced there was a serial killer in the community. The search for clues, and facts about the investigation keep you intrigued throughout. But, sadly and shockingly, the ending obliterates any pleasure you may have had reading this "could-have-been-great" novel. I was left feeling angry, betrayed, empty. Not a good way for an author to gain fans. I rated this book with one star, but if there were -negative stars available - I'd have given it a minus-4 stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I always love finding a new (to me) mystery series and now I have this to follow. This first of series book involves the titled DCI and the men and women who work with him in the cathedral town of Lafferton. The story is complex, going in multiple directions as, I assume, any police department would do at any one time. All resources aren't focused on one apparent crime. Resources must be respected, as is pointed out from time to time. There is the case of a missing middle aged woman. Just up and I always love finding a new (to me) mystery series and now I have this to follow. This first of series book involves the titled DCI and the men and women who work with him in the cathedral town of Lafferton. The story is complex, going in multiple directions as, I assume, any police department would do at any one time. All resources aren't focused on one apparent crime. Resources must be respected, as is pointed out from time to time. There is the case of a missing middle aged woman. Just up and disappeared. There is the influx New Age/alternative therapists who may be more con men then healers, there is the missing 22 year old young woman. Then of course there are drug raids, etc. Gradually the missing and the hint of strangeness among the "new wave" healers take the forefront. Key to the investigation is Freya Graffham, new to the Lafferton police, having moved from London, starting a new happier life. The plot is busy, filled with characters, conversations, investigations. At times we know more than the police. I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to reading more in the series which I think numbers about 7. Rating 4*

  9. 4 out of 5

    Holly Robinson

    I tend to gobble down mystery novels like peanut M&M's, sometimes without even noticing the colors, if you know what I mean. But The Various Haunts of Men stopped me in my tracks. This is one of those rare finds: a tense, atmospheric novel that reads like the psychotic aunt of your typical British cozy. Yep, there's the erudite, handsome detective Chief Inspector with an artistic side and a troubled aristocratic family. And, oh yes, there's the gutsy policewoman who has a teeny crush on him, and I tend to gobble down mystery novels like peanut M&M's, sometimes without even noticing the colors, if you know what I mean. But The Various Haunts of Men stopped me in my tracks. This is one of those rare finds: a tense, atmospheric novel that reads like the psychotic aunt of your typical British cozy. Yep, there's the erudite, handsome detective Chief Inspector with an artistic side and a troubled aristocratic family. And, oh yes, there's the gutsy policewoman who has a teeny crush on him, and her boyish partner as well. Lots of fascinating secondary characters who all come to life on the page add to the novel's texture. But there is something so twisted and dark about the setting and narrative that the novel grasps you in its claws and won't let you go. Not a comfortable read but often a thrilling one, with sentences that you have to savor because they're so laden with foreboding. Take a look at these two, picked hastily and at random: “A heron, long legs dangling, flew down into a field beside a stream, and stood, erect, elegant, uncannily still. A hare raced suddenly up a slope and out of sight.” Something evil is lurking on the Hill, and every scrap of leaf and fallen twig conveys that. Some readers were disappointed by the ending, I know, but I thought it was a courageous twist on the usual outcome of this sort of book. Hill is definitely on my list as one of today's top mystery novelists.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I love mysteries. They're my favorite genre. British mysteries in particular are the best kind of comfort read for me. I love the atmosphere of a British mystery, the creepiness, the character sketches. It's like slipping into a warm bath every time I pick up a book like this. This one is different, but in a way that makes it even better. I can't remember the last time that a book in this genre really surprised me. This one is unusual in that the man for whom the series is named sits offstage fo I love mysteries. They're my favorite genre. British mysteries in particular are the best kind of comfort read for me. I love the atmosphere of a British mystery, the creepiness, the character sketches. It's like slipping into a warm bath every time I pick up a book like this. This one is different, but in a way that makes it even better. I can't remember the last time that a book in this genre really surprised me. This one is unusual in that the man for whom the series is named sits offstage for the better part of the novel. Instead, we're introduced to people who are connected to him peripherally. I enjoyed getting to know every single person here, major and minor characters both. From the beginning, we become attached to the character introduced, and we're immediately drawn into the story. Interspersed among the action are short chapters from the killer's point of view, allowing the reader glimpses into his twisted, creepy head. There are storylines off to the side, all of them interesting, and I was moved more than I thought I would be by the ending. I wanted to know what would happen, but I didn't want this book to end. I think Susan Hill is a talented writer. This is my first of hers, but this is going on my favorite authors shelf, and I'm so glad to have found this series and finally given it a try. The narrator of the audiobook, Steven Pacey, did the audio for another thriller I really enjoyed, Gentlemen and Players. His voice is so well-suited to books of this type that I went to Audible.com and searched for other books read by him, which is how I found this one. Let me just say that this series found its ideal narrator in Pacey, and I couldn't have asked from anything more from either the author or the narrator.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Oh this book made me so, so sad. I couldn't sleep last night after I finished it. I was so bewildered and heartbroken by the tragedy and loneliness that pours in torrents out of this book like Noah's flood. Susan Hill, the author of the single scariest book I've ever read (The Woman in Black) is a wonderful writer who can get you delightfully lost in her worlds. The Various Haunts of Men which introduces her detective, the magnetic but elusive Simon Serrailler, is no exception to that rule. She s Oh this book made me so, so sad. I couldn't sleep last night after I finished it. I was so bewildered and heartbroken by the tragedy and loneliness that pours in torrents out of this book like Noah's flood. Susan Hill, the author of the single scariest book I've ever read (The Woman in Black) is a wonderful writer who can get you delightfully lost in her worlds. The Various Haunts of Men which introduces her detective, the magnetic but elusive Simon Serrailler, is no exception to that rule. She sets her stage in the idyllic cathedral village of Lafferton where the gentle thrum of daily life is slowly being disrupted by a serial killer. But this is a clever killer, so clever in fact that no one has even noticed the murders are happening. It takes Freya Graffam, a newly minted detective and recent transfer to Lafferton, seeing the pattern in a series of seemingly unrelated disappearances to convince Serrailler something is even going on. Slowly they begin to surmise that the answers may lie the local new age community who are gaining a foothold with naive locals seeking "psychic surgery" treatments and chakra healing and driving the local health community, lead by Serrailler's sister, to distraction. As they draw closer and carefully laid plans begin to come apart the killer becomes increasingly desperate, and with that desperation comes considerable danger to the very people trying to find them. Susan Hill has created a truly remarkable place in Lafferton and she populates it with people she wants you to know as intimately as you know a lifelong friend. An entire chapter might be devoted to the morning routine of a single character. Others introduce the reader to incidental characters or characters who would be incidental in another kind of book, but oftentimes they're the key to really understanding why what is happening in Lafferton is so horrible. As we spend more and more time with the citizens of Lafferton and see it through their eyes we come to love it just as much as they do and the barbarity of someone trying to destroy such a simple and lovely world is that much more powerfully felt. That's what makes this book so outstandingly sad and why, with genuine regret, I must confess that it is the only book in this series I think I'll read. Her characters and this world became so real I actually fond myself feeling real grief by the books end, as if a living, breathing person I loved had died. The people who die in this world matter. Where in a more generic murder mystery you might be meeting the victim just as the police sent to investigate do here we've just spent three chapters learning all the tiny details of their sad childhoods or their lonely lives seeking an undefinable fulfillment they'll never have the chance to find. When the police arrive at the first victim's home they are startled by the sterility, the lack of personal objects, the oppressive quiet. They wonder aloud how anyone could live in such a chilly place. But we know how hard the victim worked to find her home, how much she loved it and why, how it was here that she was truly happy for the first time in her life. We're the ones, as the readers, who feel the loss the police simply can't. Because they didn't know her. I just couldn't take the senselessness of what happens to these people and I know that was probably Hill's entire point. She peppers the book with the transcripts of tape recordings done by the murderer as a kind of confession but she's not interested in presenting her readers with a complex, deeply psychologically damaged murderer. The murderer doesn't matter, Hill is saying, why they're doing it doesn't and shouldn't matter. What matters are the lives they destroys and the grief of those who are left behind to bury the dead. Hill's style is almost hypnotically rapturous. You can feel the heat in a room she's describing and you salivate over the pudding someone is making in their kitchen. Her writing is like that wonderful moment at bed time when you find yourself drifting away to sleep, heavy and soft and comforting. I wanted to be in Lafferton the entire time I was reading this talking to these people and just seeing exactly what they were seeing. But I felt so horribly lonely and almost anguished when I finally closed the book. Because its also about loneliness and isolation and how we spend our lives labeling people we don't know because they don't fit in with what we think "happiness" should look like. Its about horrible things happening for absolutely no reason to people who do not deserve them, bright futures being extinguished not for some grand plan but just because someone felt like doing it. That senselessness just destroyed me, just as I think it was meant to. I was left lying in bed just saying "Why?" over and over in my head and knowing there would never be a satisfactory answer because that's the whole point, there never is. This is a beautiful, poignant to the point of tears story of a beautiful place irreparably scarred by something dark and disgusting that serves no purpose in the grand scheme. I loved it and I hated it and I'm not sorry I read it but it left such an abiding ache in me I simply can't bring myself to visit there again. Like going into the bedroom of a dead loved one and seeing everything left just as if they'll be back any moment, the pain is just too biting and deep for me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK YET: SPOILERS GALORE!!! I have never written a "spoiler" review before and I never thought I would, but this book breaks the pattern, big time! I have so many questions and thoughts after reading this book! For one thing, this is called "A Simon Serrailler mystery", but Simon is a supporting character at best. We barely get to know him in this book. Who we do get to know, and come to love, is Freya Gaffham, who in the last twenty pages of the book, g DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK YET: SPOILERS GALORE!!! I have never written a "spoiler" review before and I never thought I would, but this book breaks the pattern, big time! I have so many questions and thoughts after reading this book! For one thing, this is called "A Simon Serrailler mystery", but Simon is a supporting character at best. We barely get to know him in this book. Who we do get to know, and come to love, is Freya Gaffham, who in the last twenty pages of the book, gets murdered by the serial killer she has sought to capture! WHAT??? I wanted to read 30 more books about Freya, but it looks like she's gone long before her time. But Susan Hill has an amazing knack of creating endearing and interesting characters, so I figure the next book will be filled with more of them. This is a big book filled with intriguing story lines, caulk full off delicious details about each flawed individual. I wanted to read a whole book about Debbie Parker and spiritual journey with Dava, then I wanted to read a whole book about Dava and find out what his deal was. But of course all that is cut very short when Debbie becomes victim number three on The Hill. Also, I couldn't get enough of victim number four's story line, Iris Chater, who seeks communication with her recently deceased husband of 42 years through a very interesting medium. All these great stories come to an abrupt and unsettling end when these ladies are ceremoniously killed in the name of twisted science. I guess that was the point, but so unsatisfying for a character-lover like myself! So many questions after reading this book! What happened to Dava? Why the abrupt end to the interrogation? I wanted more of that character. Also, it never is clear who the TAPES were intended for, I assume the mother, but that is just left to question. And why were they sent to Cat? Why so much talk about the interesting and morbid "psychic surgeon" and no resolution on that front? Did he in fact sexually assault the female patient at the end of the book? Was Karen cured of cancer by him? What is to happen to her? Will these things be brought up in the next book? Will our main character be Simon, perhaps Nathan? There is so much rich detail on each character, but the story lines stop so abruptly when the characters are murdered. This must be the point, but it was such a disappointment to lose each new sympathetic friend, even though it becomes clear it's inevitable. I've read some reviews of this book that complain of the minutiae of detail over each character and their lives, and questions what the point of all that was. To me, I loved it, I loved the intimate look into the lives of these women. To me, the details made the book so rich and deep. I wanted to go on following Iris and Freya and Debbie about their days and see if they succeed in achieving each of their hearts' desires. I loved them all and was routing for them. Damn that acupuncturist. And we don't even get a good capture at the end, because the bastard hangs himself from a tree! It seemed that Susan Hill burned so many bridges with this novel. Wouldn't she want to use Freya as a returning character? Why kill off Aidan at the end? But after all I do think that maybe Susan Hill has many more tricks up her sleeve, and killing off characters is just all in a day's work, there's bound to be many more where they come from is my guess. I'll be checking out the next book, but after that I need a bit of a break! I think it's back to the gentler Three Pines, Quebec for me for now. I need to recuperate in Myrna's bookshop and read some of Ruth's poetry and decompress!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*

    Loved this book early 2014......it inspired me to read the series. Have just finished #2, The Pure in Heart which was every bit as good, and now waiting for #3 in the series from my local library. 8:D

  14. 4 out of 5

    Skye

    Hill's novel is deceptive and dark. Lafferton, England, idyllic and dangerous hosts many secrets and a subversive cast of characters. Suspense slowly mounts as women disappear without any likely assailants; however, via multiple, third-person narratives and one anonymous first-person point of view, the reader is led on a sinister journey: deadly and frightening. Hill lets us view the world of alternative medicine, its victims and charlatans, and we also note the dedication of the police investiga Hill's novel is deceptive and dark. Lafferton, England, idyllic and dangerous hosts many secrets and a subversive cast of characters. Suspense slowly mounts as women disappear without any likely assailants; however, via multiple, third-person narratives and one anonymous first-person point of view, the reader is led on a sinister journey: deadly and frightening. Hill lets us view the world of alternative medicine, its victims and charlatans, and we also note the dedication of the police investigative team. The ending is not satisfying but extremely atmospheric and heavy, and Hill pitches us a curved ball as a cliff hanger.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Txkimmers

    *****WARNING Dog Related Spoilers in this review***** I was really looking forward to this book 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 *****WARNING Dog Related Spoilers in this review***** I was really looking forward to this book 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 sucked. 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 (maybe Cathy, I listened to an Audible version), and her approach to her cancer and what happens with her. But 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 kind of screwed 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. Oh, and 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 shit 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ivonne Rovira

    Susan Hill, best known for her chilling The Woman in Black, launched her Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler mystery series with this novel in which first one resident of the cathedral town of Lafferton and then another disappears. The account of the crimes and the police investigation alternates with a taped “confession” by the unidentified killer, a sociopath taping his own version of events, ostensibly for his stern, hypercritical mother. The novel offers a window into the mind of a se Susan Hill, best known for her chilling The Woman in Black, launched her Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler mystery series with this novel in which first one resident of the cathedral town of Lafferton and then another disappears. The account of the crimes and the police investigation alternates with a taped “confession” by the unidentified killer, a sociopath taping his own version of events, ostensibly for his stern, hypercritical mother. The novel offers a window into the mind of a serial killer, quite disturbing. Simon Serrailler’s family is a bit too clever by half: He’s one of triplets, for heavens’ sake, from a family of physicians. Rather than a mere black sheep of the family turned cop, Simon instead is a gifted artist whose second career provides a lucrative income and frequent trips to Italy. Naturally, since Hill employs nearly every cliché, Simon’s a loner who excels at police work and who draws women in the same way that honey draws flies. Despite the cliché, Hill’s expert writing, her suspenseful ending chapters, the novel’s shocking ending, and its format rescue The Various Haunts of Men from mediocrity. The novel’s format reminds me of Peter Ackroyd’s The Trial of Elizabeth Cree, or Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem or some of Deborah Crombie’s novels. While, obviously, nowhere in the same league as Hill’s horror novels, The Various Haunts of Men transforms into a real page-turner as aghast readers realize who the killer is and what that means for the characters they’ve come to love. And there are many characters to enjoy. Unlike Serrailler, the novel’s other characters — particularly Serrailler’s clever, daring Detective Sergeant Freya Graffham — are wonderfully quirky and interesting. Indeed, Freya just about steals the show from Serrailler, as she’s so much more likeable and because she’s determined to see justice done by poor lonely Angela Randall, the first victim. Too bad that Hill didn’t select the wonderful Detective Sergeant Graffham as her protagonist rather than the cold and elusive DCI Serrailler. Thanks especially to the good sergeant, readers won’t be sorry they picked up The Various Haunts of Men.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    Oh, I do enjoy the conceit of the English country novel. It’s second only to the Agatha Christie country house detective. In these stories, it’s not the policework or even the mystery that matters so much as the effect of the crimes on the collective psyche of the town in which they take place. Lafferton, the setting of The Various Haunts of Men is a cathedral town. Simon Serrailler describes it as "a jumped up market town", just big enough that not everyone knows everyone else, but the degrees Oh, I do enjoy the conceit of the English country novel. It’s second only to the Agatha Christie country house detective. In these stories, it’s not the policework or even the mystery that matters so much as the effect of the crimes on the collective psyche of the town in which they take place. Lafferton, the setting of The Various Haunts of Men is a cathedral town. Simon Serrailler describes it as "a jumped up market town", just big enough that not everyone knows everyone else, but the degrees of separation must be pretty close. It’s the kind of community that would be shocked by a murder. Except a murder isn’t what they get here: instead, three women (and a man, though his disappearance apparently isn’t noticed) go missing over the span of several weeks. The police aren’t even certain foul play is involved until very far into the book—but thanks to our privileged position, we know we’re dealing with a serial killer obsessed with conducting post mortems. Susan Hill balances the relationships of Lafferton’s inhabitants with monologues and meditations by the serial killer. As a result, we get to know the antagonist well. She exposes the various traumas and events that triggered his latent urges. Gradually, she connects the dots until his identity is obvious. Whether one guesses the killer’s identity before its revelation or not, the actual identity is a betrayal of sorts. But it’s nothing next to the final twist in the plot. One question I ponder whenever I’m reading a mystery novel is whether a good mystery must leave enough clues for the reader to solve it, if they are able. I would say no; although no longer my favourites, Sherlock Holmes has always held a special place in my heart—and, let’s face it, the stories are still popular and captivating—despite the fact that in almost every story, Holmes’ deductions rely on obscure clues that only he has noticed and connected. Yet I do enjoy books where it is at least theoretically possible for the reader to solve the murder, even if I don’t usually manage to do so. I happened to uncover the killer in this book before Hill revealed it, and I don’t consider that a flaw in the book’s design, though I am rather surprised by myself. As for the big twist, which involves the protagonist, Freya Graffham, I saw that coming as well (albeit not as early as I saw the killer’s identity). I hoped I was wrong, and briefly following the events, I thought Hill might have faked me out. In the end, though, she indeed carried through. It’s a decision that no doubt alienates just as many readers as it captivates. Good. Don’t do anything by halves. These are all just party tricks, though. The substance of The Various Haunts of Men is Hill’s rich portrayal of the relationships between the main and minor characters. She builds up a network of friends and acquaintances of each of the victims. Everyone seems to know Cat Deerbon, even if she isn’t their GP, and her budding concern over the rise of unregulated "complementary therapists" proves to be a major plot point. Hence, while someone like Karin McCafferty isn’t directly related to the mystery part of the novel, her involvement is an opportunity for Hill to demonstrate how Cat navigates the difficult waters of doctor-patient counsel. I found this part of the book very interesting, and it’s one of the reasons I got hooked. Freya’s unrequited love for Simon was less interesting. I felt very sorry for Freya, because she is head-over-heels, and I couldn’t help but think that, inevitably, Simon was going to end up hurting her. However, this aspect of the book is very one-sided. For a novel that is apparently the first in Simon’s series, he is just barely a main character, and the narrator certainly keeps Simon’s cards close to his chest. Most of what we know about Simon comes instead from what others, particularly his sister, divulge about him to Freya. This penchant for telling rather than showing is perhaps the flaw to The Various Haunts of Men that haunts me. Hill proves herself skilled in crafting intricate webs of characters and circumstance, creating a potent mystery that sticks with the reader. Her descriptions leave something to be desired, sometimes, and she can go overboard with the exposition when her narrator gets on a roll. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to overlook this because of the style of the book, in which such lengthy depictions only contribute further to the unhurried, small town atmosphere that Hill is trying to create. This is not a thriller, and while it involves murders, it is barely even a murder mystery to the characters within the story. For them it is simply a case of missing persons, with the reality that there is a serial killer among them only revealed very close to the end. From the reader’s better-informed perspective, though, this only heightens the tension. As the investigation becomes more complex, the killer starts to panic, to forget his rules that were supposed to set him apart from killers past. It’s interesting watching the killer unravel. Meanwhile, the other characters show themselves committed to their causes—whether it’s finding the killer or protecting innocents from being exploited by "psychic surgeons" and other quacks. The Various Haunts of Men is an entertaining and enthralling book. Hill captures the charm of the stereotypical small English town and then plunges it into the dark abyss of the tortured human psyche. It’s reassuring and disturbing at the same time, with warm and sympathetic characters. In short, it’s exactly what I want in a nice and juicy mystery.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Monique

    Okay..SO wanted to give this book the five star rating it deserved as I tore through this book in days and was thoroughly entertained..however I felt the ending was flat..Back it up to the story, it begins in a sleepy, comfortable town of Lafferton, I believe it is in England but let me also preface this retelling by again stating no one does mystery better and more detailed than our English/British author friends, what rich enveloping stories they tell..Okay back to the plot in Lafferton there Okay..SO wanted to give this book the five star rating it deserved as I tore through this book in days and was thoroughly entertained..however I felt the ending was flat..Back it up to the story, it begins in a sleepy, comfortable town of Lafferton, I believe it is in England but let me also preface this retelling by again stating no one does mystery better and more detailed than our English/British author friends, what rich enveloping stories they tell..Okay back to the plot in Lafferton there are several seemingly unrelated odd occurrences when a quiet, somber elderly woman, an agile mountain biker and a depressed, overweight girl disappear without a trace. The story is told in fragmented viewpoints switching (rather rudely) without warning from the victims, the detectives, outside characters and the sinister villain through a series of confession type letters to his despised mother. Okay so we have a possible great novel here and I love the back stories, the character profiles and the subplots. Like I stated earlier I hated that they switched characters and you had to reread and remain lost for a few sentences until you figured out who was speaking/thinking but it worked somehow and kept my interest..however I did not like the surprise, the climax, the "ah ha--it was him/her all along"..I thought it was weak and unsupported..also and again I realize how morbid I really can be, there were no descriptions of really what was done with the bodies..I mean they were abducted and blah blah dont want to tell too much but honestly there could have been more in depth chapters on the murdererer so that when its revealed its not so much of a let down..overall though I loved the writing, some characters (the deeply mysterious and impossible impenetrable and sexy Simon Serrailer) were totally overdrawn and a little farfetched but I will rock with it if the endings have more zip..will look into more in the series maybe...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kupersmith

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Whilst The Various Haunts of Men figures is the first of Susan Hill’s DCI Simon Serrailler series of mystery stories, the principal character is Freya Graffham, a young woman DS, who solves the series of murders that have been committed in the small cathedral city of Lafferton. Freya has been seeking a quiet place to recover from the stresses of a bad marriage and working for the Met. In Lafferton she finds a place in in the cathedral choir, a number of new friends, as well as finding herself in Whilst The Various Haunts of Men figures is the first of Susan Hill’s DCI Simon Serrailler series of mystery stories, the principal character is Freya Graffham, a young woman DS, who solves the series of murders that have been committed in the small cathedral city of Lafferton. Freya has been seeking a quiet place to recover from the stresses of a bad marriage and working for the Met. In Lafferton she finds a place in in the cathedral choir, a number of new friends, as well as finding herself in love with Simon. She also finds death as the final victim of the villain, The death of Freya is entirely gratuitous on the part of Susan Hill. The plot does not require it, the identity of the serial killer has already been revealed and help on the way but unfortunately it’s a little delayed. Killing Freya does not let the murderer to escape – in fact he proceeds to hang himself at the scene of his crimes. Freya, however, receives a perfectly wonderful C of E funeral with all the right hymns - particularly Lord of All Hopefulness and He Who Would Valiant Be, both of which always make me tear up. As there is no artistic reason for Freya’s fate, I can assess only its literary consequences. Simon is now without any rival for principal character of the Lafferton series, which makes this a Simon Serrailler story despite his subordinate role. Susan Hill is also spared having to relate a love affair between Freya and Simon, where Simon would probably behave as his usual selfish boor who regards women as only amusements and would give Freya the el dumpo and go off to Venice to sketch some canals. I read a couple more books in the series a few years ago when I first read this one and that’s just the kind of thing he does. So I dumped Simon though I still love Susan Hill’s ghost stories. Ratings: Freya gets four stars. (Not quite on the Cassie Maddox or Lacy Flint five-star level, about even with Maeve Kerrigan or with Fiona Griffiths on one of her better days.) Villain’s a three star. (Kinky as all get out wannabe pathologist but inadequately motivated.) Four stars for the setting – made me think of Wells. Simon – two stars. (Good DCI but complete cad.) Simon’s father is a totally odious snob who thinks a country pill pusher is too good to have a son who’s a DCI. I’d love to see him married to Maeve Kerrigan’s ‘mam’.) Final score is three stars. Not, as I discovered, worth reading again.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Denisse

    What a sad feeling this book just left me with! Didn't expect that. As a mystery fan, I'm more interested in the fast paced kind, but something about the slow build intrigued me and the detailed description of every character life and mind and their contribution with the emotive rollercoaster that is the ending, left me almost crying at the end. It takes a while, but for me, it payed off. A subtle mystery, with a fierced heart. Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge 2019: A book by an author who is What a sad feeling this book just left me with! Didn't expect that. As a mystery fan, I'm more interested in the fast paced kind, but something about the slow build intrigued me and the detailed description of every character life and mind and their contribution with the emotive rollercoaster that is the ending, left me almost crying at the end. It takes a while, but for me, it payed off. A subtle mystery, with a fierced heart. Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge 2019: A book by an author who is new to you Normalmente leo misterio cuando ando algo estresada, y para mí un buen misterio rápido de leer es la mejor medicina. Tal vez no era mi mejor momento para entrar en Las distintas guaridas de los hombres, pero no hizo que lo disfrutara menos. Admiro a los autores que son capaces de generar tantos hilos y unirlos todos al final sin dejar nada suelto. Y esa es la situación en esta novela. No solo conoces a las personas a fondo antes de que desaparezcan, sino a todos a su alrededor y lo mucho que sus vidas cambian. Todos los personajes están tan claramente descritos que es imposible no conectar con algunos. Esta tan lleno en detalles que al inicio pueden parecer solo de relleno pero que al acercarte al final, cobran significado. Y eso fue lo que más me gusto de la novela, lo bien que coloca todas las piezas y el sentimiento tan grande de melancolía que tiene en las últimas páginas. Lo que al inicio parecía un crimen imposible de resolver, se convierte en un caso perfectamente cerrado y las secuelas que deja en los personajes sobrevivientes muy reales, conectando contigo a un nivel muy personal. Definitivamente tengo que continuar leyendo a Susan Hill.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is the first in the Simon Serrailler detective series. Interestingly, he is hardly in this book at all which I thought was a clever idea. Instead, Hill gives us Freya Graffham - a new young policewoman in town who has a crush on Simon and sees him as an almost mythical figure. We learn a lot about him through her eyes but he always stays a little removed, intriguing, and seductive - the desire to know more means the second book in the series is already in my TBR pile ready to go. Hill isn't This is the first in the Simon Serrailler detective series. Interestingly, he is hardly in this book at all which I thought was a clever idea. Instead, Hill gives us Freya Graffham - a new young policewoman in town who has a crush on Simon and sees him as an almost mythical figure. We learn a lot about him through her eyes but he always stays a little removed, intriguing, and seductive - the desire to know more means the second book in the series is already in my TBR pile ready to go. Hill isn't writing your usual mystery. She focuses mostly on character, developing even the minor players with personalities, motivations, and back stories. Everyone has a little something going on - some of it is linked to the plot and but some of it just adds richness to the people we are starting to care about. The mystery is here but it feels secondary and doesn't kick in for quite some time. That was ok with me but I could understand if a reader was frustrated with the pace. I actually thought the mystery is the weakest part of the book with an interesting premise but an underdeveloped conclusion. Even so, this was a book that I raced through and really enjoyed. *semi-spoiler* Base on other reviews, there is a twist at the end. Frankly, I didn't think it was a twist - I saw it as the only way to end this story and would have been disappointed if Hill went with a more conventional route. It was necessary and gave the book more gravitas.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid

    An enjoyable summer read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    Susan Hill never disappoints. This is her first venture into crime/mystery novels and is an astonishing achievement. She breaks all the rules and sets a new standard in a well-established genre.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Terri Lynn

    Since I had already read a later Simon Serrailler mystery, I wanted to start at the beginning and play catch up. The other book also didn't feature much of Simon at all despite this being the "Simon Serrailler" mystery series and I was surprised to see that this one didn't have much of him either outside a few appearances at work or his mom's house. We don't see him doing much of anything. The story is much more about his triplet doctor Cat who also lives in Lafferton, England, a small Cathedra Since I had already read a later Simon Serrailler mystery, I wanted to start at the beginning and play catch up. The other book also didn't feature much of Simon at all despite this being the "Simon Serrailler" mystery series and I was surprised to see that this one didn't have much of him either outside a few appearances at work or his mom's house. We don't see him doing much of anything. The story is much more about his triplet doctor Cat who also lives in Lafferton, England, a small Cathedral town. She is married to a doctor and they have two kids we don't get to see. It is also about police sergeant Freya Graffham. I liked Freya. She had been a London cop, married to a man who was emotionally abusive and who had dominated her and made her do everything his way. She had divorced him and moved to Lafferton to join the force there. She is starting to make friends since joining the choir at the Cathedral and one of these is Simon's mother Meriel Serrailler who, for reasons unknown, has spent a long marriage to Simon's nasty emotionally abusive dad. This is where I have to take a star away from the book. Simon was off on a painting vacation when Freya joins the force. She saw him a couple of times at work and then happens to be at his parents home having tea with his mother when Simon comes over. She had been thrilling to how her life was her own now when suddenly the light struck Simon's blond hair just so and "damn, damn, damn," she thought, "I am in love with him." Huh? She doesn't know anything about him. She has had 0 conversations with him. She does not know about his interests or what kind of man he is. But she is in love with him? No, she just is HORNY. I wish the author understood that there is a HUGE difference between being in love and being horny over someone you do not know. He shows no sexual interest nor romantic interest in her at all and though they do have coffee at his apartment and have a restaurant lunch, he shows no interest but she is panting like a dog and acting like a 14 year old girl in the throes of puberty. She lurks outside his building, makes friends with his sister and mother, and finds reasons to go to his office. She even has lunch with the town gossip to pry info about him out of her. Of course people notice. The gossip, Simon's sister, and a co-worker all try to warn her off. Simon is emotionally unavailable. All the while Freya is making a fool of herself, she believes there is a serial killer at work. A male jogger, three women, and a dog all disappear. The story line is very interesting and I liked getting to know the victims because it made the story have more emotional resonance. I also liked seeing Cat involved with her patients. Part of the reason I couldn't give 5 stars involves the fact that abruptly in the last quarter of the book, the author reveals who the killer is having given no clues at all and suddenly everyone who thought the killer was so nice and good are describing this person as creepy. Also, the killer began to pretty much give everyone open clues about guilt. I was furious about the last victim. There was no excuse for it, it did not further the story nor improve it. It was for shock value only and cruel to both character and reader for no reason.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Griflet

    Omg - read this whole long slow slog and in the last handful of pages she kills off the protagonist...completely unacceptable when you're waiting for the protagonist and her boss to get together! "I was so angry with the horrible ending of "Various Haunts", it destroyed my enjoyment of the author's gifted writing. I will never again read anything by Susan Hill. Yes, she's talented, but when I invest my time (and money) in a book, I want some reward at the end. Either gain more knowledge, or be en Omg - read this whole long slow slog and in the last handful of pages she kills off the protagonist...completely unacceptable when you're waiting for the protagonist and her boss to get together! "I was so angry with the horrible ending of "Various Haunts", it destroyed my enjoyment of the author's gifted writing. I will never again read anything by Susan Hill. Yes, she's talented, but when I invest my time (and money) in a book, I want some reward at the end. Either gain more knowledge, or be entertained....something." Breach of contract.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pam Baddeley

    I approached this book with interest and initially was drawn into it and enjoying it - expected it would turn out to be at least a 4 star read. There was rather too much rambling discourse about medical matters and alternative medicine - usually the negative aspects of the latter - which didn't really go anywhere but I was prepared to put up with that for a well written book about the various characters whose lives are impinged upon - sometimes fatally - by a deranged killer who is able to cleve I approached this book with interest and initially was drawn into it and enjoying it - expected it would turn out to be at least a 4 star read. There was rather too much rambling discourse about medical matters and alternative medicine - usually the negative aspects of the latter - which didn't really go anywhere but I was prepared to put up with that for a well written book about the various characters whose lives are impinged upon - sometimes fatally - by a deranged killer who is able to cleverly cover his tracks. The trouble came in two forms: firstly, the main protagonist, a female detective called Freya, was seriously undermined by the author. We learn that she has relocated to this cathedral city to get over a marriage that was very controlling if not outright abusive. She is rebuilding her life, joins the cathedral choir, is baking puddings for the choir get-togethers, and fitting in well in her new role in the local CID. Her colleagues are nice, especially her Detective Constable (she is a sergeant) and there is even a coasting older Detective Inspector who may be retiring soon and whose job will be coming up vacant. And then - wham, she suddenly falls in love with her boss Simon Serrallier on a social occasion while meeting his mother who organises the choir catering etc. It isn't the first time she has met him, but suddenly she reacts like an adolescent in first love and continues to act that way, mooning around, dawdling outside his door, even going to his flat to hang around outside. It is just totally pathetic and not in keeping or consistent with a woman in her - late twenties I think - who has been through a failed marriage and might if anything be expected to be rather cautious in becoming involved with another man. Especially since the man in question is rather a blank page: other than being told by his sister and a family friend that he has commitment issues and has broken lots of women's hearts, he just comes across as a bland, efficient and remote boss - who then acts in a rather dodgy way given their professional relationship by inviting her out to dinner. None of that part of the book works for me at all. The second problem is the horrendous ending where we suddenly learn who the murderer is quite a bit in advance and various people fail to prevent his murderous career from continuing. The character with cancer who faints in his 'surgery' and is lulled by her friend the doctor (who is also Simon's sister), can't be blamed given her state of health, but the doctor fails to bring up with anyone what the killer had said to her about the number of times he supposedly treated one of the victims - totally contradicting what he later tells Freya - so I can only assume that was a continuity error rather than a discrepancy which would have raised a flag with Freya. Given the doctor's negligence, she doesn't appear to have any sense of guilt by the end. And the denoument where (view spoiler)[ Freya opens the door to the killer late at night because she thinks it must be Simon (hide spoiler)] is just ridiculous. I hadn't actually added this book to my Goodreads shelf until I had finished it so didn't know this was book 1 of a series or that the series 'character' is Simon - ironic since he doesn't actually have one - rather than the detective who has been the focus, so wasn't clued to the fact that (view spoiler)[despite being the protagonist she is considered expendable (hide spoiler)] . I'm so annoyed at the way Hill has broken faith with the readers like that - one rule that shouldn't be broken - I won't be bothering with any more of her work. So 1 star for the quality of the prose itself, but that is all.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Where I got the book: audiobook on Audible. I’d checked a couple of the Serailler books out of the library in the past, and have long been meaning to listen to the entire series. I loved Susan Hill’s creepy stories when I was younger. This, of course, is Book 1, and what’s most interesting about it in my opinion is that we are introduced to Simon Serailler purely from the outside and that he’s seen in large part through the eyes of someone who’s only recently met him and who, to her great chagrin, Where I got the book: audiobook on Audible. I’d checked a couple of the Serailler books out of the library in the past, and have long been meaning to listen to the entire series. I loved Susan Hill’s creepy stories when I was younger. This, of course, is Book 1, and what’s most interesting about it in my opinion is that we are introduced to Simon Serailler purely from the outside and that he’s seen in large part through the eyes of someone who’s only recently met him and who, to her great chagrin, has almost immediately fallen in love with him. That’s a pretty interesting device, as if Hill deliberately set out to call attention to the power a good fictional detective of the classic English type has over us. Serailler’s got all the hallmarks: he’s good at his job, he’s a loner, he’s got a sensitive, artistic side to the point where more than one of his colleagues think’s he’s gay. Sort of a cross between Adam Dalgleish and Lord Peter Wimsey, and in the same way this novel blends police procedural with Serailler’s family life, roping in a few friends and colleagues along the way. Of course he also has the aura of authority (a powerful aphrodisiac) and Hill seems to wave that in front of the reader’s face by having the woman who falls for him be one of his subordinates. I think I knew pretty early on how that particular plot line was going to end, although I ended up liking Freya and hoping it wouldn’t. And I think Hill meant me both to like her and to suspect what was going to happen. One thing that distinguishes this first book is that we hear from the killer early on, building a picture of who he is psychologically long before we know who he is in fact. The plot centers around the theme of alternative medicine, very suitable since most of the Seraillers are doctors, and you get the distinct impression that Hill is on the side of orthodoxy so all in all by the time I was a little more than halfway through the book I knew where the killer was coming from. The plotting of the book’s a little messy, for all that this is probably the most neatly structured of the Serailler books. Hill’s not a writer to reward you with a feeling of smug satisfaction; she seems to like to keep her readers a little on the uncomfortable side and is predictable in some places while throwing curve balls in others. These are good books for mystery readers who like to get involved with the characters as much as they want to see the unraveling of the mystery. Narrator Steven Pacey does a smooth, relaxed job, and is good at varying the accents without exaggerating them.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jaksen

    This is a chubby book, but I read it in about two days. First off, the writing here is above par, beautifully done. Sense of place, the tone, dialogue, description, transitions - and in multiple POV - is all excellent. I have read some of Ms. Hill's shorter novels and loved them, and then after reading a review by a Goodreads friend of a different Simon Serrailler book, I had to give this series a try. Secondly, Simon's barely in this book! He pops up now and then, and plays more of a role toward This is a chubby book, but I read it in about two days. First off, the writing here is above par, beautifully done. Sense of place, the tone, dialogue, description, transitions - and in multiple POV - is all excellent. I have read some of Ms. Hill's shorter novels and loved them, and then after reading a review by a Goodreads friend of a different Simon Serrailler book, I had to give this series a try. Secondly, Simon's barely in this book! He pops up now and then, and plays more of a role toward the end, so it's a rather cheeky way to introduce a series. (Or it's possible Ms. Hill wasn't planning on writing a series? Characters can take you in directions you didn't expect. Every good writer knows this. Enough speculating ...) Several people in the small town of Lafferton, England are missing. A middle-aged woman, a younger woman, a young man. Naturally, the police look for connections between them, because there MUST BE a commonality somewhere. That's how serial killers work, yes? Ummm, not always. Sometimes it's just a matter of who's easy to snatch and kill. At any rate, life goes on in Lafferton. Now even though I do love mysteries and thrillers to move along, the minutiae, details, and daily lives and thoughts of the people in Lafferton were so interesting. It's the kind of book where I often thought, hey, I know somebody exactly like that. Hence, it sets a mood, as in, how can something terrible happen here? We're such good and ordinary and boring people. I am digressing, but this book reminds me so much of Ruth Rendell's writing, and even, of P. D. James. It's the details which matter, as in who goes where and who talks to whom, and what's their routine and so on. DS Freya Graffham, who's newly moved to Lafferton, takes a central role in the police investigation as she tries to sort this all out. She's also 'noticing' one of her superiors (DCI Simon Serrailler) quite favorably. However, this never descends into mushy romantic territory. It's written very realistically, even as the reader jumps from one POV to another. The killer, who remains unknown to the reader, also gets a few pages to set out his/her agenda, but it doesn't spoil the story. A long book, but an excellent one, with more than one amazing twist and turn. I took off one star only because at the ending... Well, read it yourself. I certainly will continue the series. Four stars

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nick Davies

    Two stars, saved only from a lower mark by virtue of it being possible to read the book, and the fact that the plot was sufficiently decent to keep me trudging through. But yes, what a trudge. The first three hundred pages were especially tiresome - lots and lots of the author telling the reader about the inhabitants of the small town in which this crime mystery is set, lots of descriptions about their histories, thoughts, hobbies, clothes, tastes in interior decoration, how gullible they were ab Two stars, saved only from a lower mark by virtue of it being possible to read the book, and the fact that the plot was sufficiently decent to keep me trudging through. But yes, what a trudge. The first three hundred pages were especially tiresome - lots and lots of the author telling the reader about the inhabitants of the small town in which this crime mystery is set, lots of descriptions about their histories, thoughts, hobbies, clothes, tastes in interior decoration, how gullible they were about new-age therapies, oh.. and did I remember to mention the fact there was a Hill* in the town, and it was foggy there? I better mention it again in case. At the core of this book was a decent enough story. It was just smothered in so much flabby detail of stuff of little importance to the narrative, I found it a real chore. There is a female detective behaving utterly ridiculous all the way through in her fawning over her boss like a demented teenager, there are numerous characters who the author probably tries to make one feel pity for (I just thought these desperately sad women were stupid in their beliefs in supernatural medicine, as opposed to feeling sympathetic to them) and for a book subtitled as 'Simon Serailler #1', the aforementioned male detective barely features in the book. * - q.v. Jozef Nuttin and his 'name letter effect' and/or aspects of nominative determinism. It can be no coincidence that an author named Hill mentions a Hill so often.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nevermore

    This may topple right off my "currently reading" onto my "gave up" shelf. It is making me think that my "gave up" shelf probably needs fine tuning. There are many reasons to give up and for me, sheer boredom and indifference would be what ended this one. I read a lot of murder-mystery. A lot. And a lot of it is bad. I think I might even prefer a bad book to a book that makes no impact on me at all: at least then I could rail on a bit about what makes it bad. I had to give two stars because the a This may topple right off my "currently reading" onto my "gave up" shelf. It is making me think that my "gave up" shelf probably needs fine tuning. There are many reasons to give up and for me, sheer boredom and indifference would be what ended this one. I read a lot of murder-mystery. A lot. And a lot of it is bad. I think I might even prefer a bad book to a book that makes no impact on me at all: at least then I could rail on a bit about what makes it bad. I had to give two stars because the author can write a sentence. I have read books where that seemingly basic skill has been lacking. Also because the author tries to populate the book with characters and that is encouraging. What the author has failed to do is make me care. I don't care what happens to the main character or the bad guy. I can't even remember the detective/police person and it has only been a couple of weeks since I started this!!! That just about says it all, eh?

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