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The Various Haunts Of Men: Simon Serrailler Book 1 (Simon Serrailler series) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 448 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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A gripping whodunnit and a subtle study of the mind of a psychopath.-- "Daily Mail"
A masterly and satisfying thriller from one of Britain's best-loved mystery writers.-- "Ruth Rendell"
A taut and suspenseful mystery...dark but entirely convincing...Hill's fine writing and nuanced insight into human nature should appeal to fans of such masters of the psychological thriller as P.D. James, Elizabeth George and Ruth Rendell.-- "Publishers Weekly"
This book must be judged as a potential successor to the great sequences of detective writing by PD James and Ruth Rendell...excellent.-- "Daily Telegraph" --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
I loved this book. Masterly and satisfying ― Ruth Rendell
This book must be judged as a potential successor to the great sequences of detective writing by PD James and Ruth Rendell...excellent ― Daily Telegraph
She has the priceless ability to construct a solidly-researched narrative that keeps the reader turning the pages ― Independent
Hill's first crime novel has a grip of steel ― Woman and Home --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B0055CS3X4
- Publisher : Vintage Digital (27 June 2011)
- Language : English
- File size : 5451 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 448 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 25,285 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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(Simon Serrailler # 1)
You expect crime novels to be a bit dark. It is, after all, intrinsic to the subject matter: crime is a nasty business. But what struck me about ‘The Various Haunts of Men’ is how positive, even uplifting some parts of it were. Especially compared with some crime writers, who’s work is unrelentingly gritty – dark grey shading to black – Susan Hill brings in a lot of light and colour and positive thinking.
The source of this is the characters. Although this is the first of the ‘Simon Serrailler’ series, the enigmatic DCI is more of a background figure in most of the book, and we learn more of him through conversations about him than we do directly. But other characters, even relatively minor ones, are vivid and fully developed – and a lot of them show a surprisingly positive outlook.
One of my favourites in this regard was ‘Cat’ Deerbon, Simon Serrailler’s sister and a local GP, who’s commitment to her patients and deep Christian faith make her an uplifting presence throughout the book. Other characters are also shown with as much light in them as darkness, as much hope as despair. They feel like real people who you can both sympathise with and laugh with.
Of course, that also means that when something bad does happen to them, you feel it all the more strongly.
Hill’s talent for description extends to the setting as well as the characters. Without the necessity for long passages heavy with detail, she evokes a strong sense of place in the various scenes – the Cathederal, the Hill with its standing stones, and so on. These come together to make the cathedral town of Lafferton a very authentic place.
She is somewhat weaker on plotting, though that’s not an obvious issue. The central premise – of several people (and a dog – who is in fact a fish in my opinion: i.e. a red herring!) going missing on The Hill, without any other apparent connection between them is intriguing, and promises a complex and devious story. But in fact, the solution is relatively straightforward once the facts are revealed. Clever, satisfying and chilling – but without the multiple twists and turns that you might have expected from such starting point.
Instead, the story follows police procedure and the decisions of individual people. It is very much character driven throughout, and from a technical point of view it is perhaps Hill’s ability to weave together so many different personalities, whilst keeping each one distinct, that is the most impressive aspect of her writing.
Another interesting facet was the slight tinge of the supernatural which hangs round the edges of the narrative. Susan Hill is, of course, known for her ghost stories and so a bit of supernatural might be expected, but there’s no hint of ghosts. It’s down to earth and matter of fact – and yet, in the same way that a hint of ‘something other’ can often touch our ‘down to earth and matter of fact’ lives, Hill brings into her story the feeling of things beyond normal experience impinging on our world. We see it in the various practitioners of alternative medicine – some quite legitimate, some merely quacks, some less easy to explain. We get a touch of it in the Cathedral as well, with it’s lingering sense of the numinous. No more is made of it than that, but it forms part of the character’s lives and therefore part of the story.
I only had one real problem with ‘The Various Haunts of Men’, and that revolves round a technical point of police procedure which I doubt if many people will have noticed or care about. However, to allow my pedantic side free reign for a moment…
When the Police go and check Angela Randall’s house (Chapter 5) they would presumably have had to force entry. This can be done by several means, all of them messy to a greater or lesser extent. But there’s no mention of this at all. Indeed, when Freya, the DS investigating, visits the house, she ‘closed the door softly behind her’ - which might have been difficult if, for example, it had been taken off it’s hinges by a copper making an entrance! Of course, this isn’t important to the plot, but with the attention to detail otherwise shown, it stood out to me.
Pedantic moment over, and overall this was a deeply absorbing story, both deeper in content and lighter in tone than many crime novels. There were more loose ends left than I liked, but I make allowances for the fact that this is the first in a series, and there may well be opportunities in those loose ends for further plots or sub-plots to be developed. I certainly hope to read more and find out.
When I first read “the various haunts of men” several years ago, I found something about it too emotionally charged for me at the time and did not seek out the sequels.
Now, having returned to the series via the first audiobook I find myself ready to embrace Hill’s world and style of writing.
I love the way Hill weaves ethical and religious dilemmas into her plots . She encourages the reader to think “what do I think about this? What would I do or say? “ Her characters feel real, rounded , nuanced. Faith or lack of it is openly explored but without judgement and with a sure but light touch.
Having re-read The various haunts of men after a gap of several years I realised I really wanted to follow up with the rest of the series. Gone through the first 4 in under a week...
Few detective stories make me actually weep but these have done occasionally. Some aspects of the storylines have touched on some still raw nerves from my own family experiences .... though glad to say I am not referring to the actual murders!
From her first great book “In the springtime of the year” Hill has been determined to encourage her readers to grapple with their own thoughts and feelings and experiences around death by showing us how others have coped with a death they are facing . She has found the perfect vehicle in the Simon Serrailler series. The interplay between agnostic but deeply caring detective with Christian GP twin sister is just one of the fascinating relationships that are woven through the stories. Never patronising or spiritualising, never dumbing down or dismissing pain and doubt . There is deep honesty here, but, like so many great authors Hill knows when to shut the door, to turn the page so that the witnessing never becomes prurient.
It did not take me long to fall for this different style which despite the subject matter, is often lighter throughout and it just took me by the hand and led me to a satisfying conclusion. I enjoyed the descriptive pieces giving us a feeling of Lafferton and some of its streets, closes and homes large and small and the fabulous characters we get to know bit by bit with quite a bit of their backstory thrown in. As for DCI Simon Serrailler we learn more about his family than him really, he seems a bit elusive but knowing this is book 1 in a series of his name, I am sure there is plenty to learn of him and the rest of the characters and probably more in the future books which is exciting.
A character driven story with beautiful description and wonderful story telling, I also noted no bad language which was nice, for me an utterly compelling read which I have to give 5 stars and I am excited to continue this series as soon as possible to catch up with what I have been missing out on for so long.
Thank you for such a wonderful read Susan Hill