The Various Haunts of Men (Simon Serrailler Series #1)

( 7 )

Overview

A lonely woman of fifty-three vanishes in fog; a fat twenty-two-year-old never returns from an early morning walk . . .

Experienced policemen know that most missing persons either turn up or go missing on purpose. But fresh young D.S. Freya Graffham won’t drop it — until she discovers what links the people who disappear on “The Hill,” young and old, men and women, even a little dog. Susan Hill writes with ...

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The Various Haunts of Men (Simon Serrailler Series #1)

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Overview

A lonely woman of fifty-three vanishes in fog; a fat twenty-two-year-old never returns from an early morning walk . . .

Experienced policemen know that most missing persons either turn up or go missing on purpose. But fresh young D.S. Freya Graffham won’t drop it — until she discovers what links the people who disappear on “The Hill,” young and old, men and women, even a little dog. Susan Hill writes with compassion, humour and a unique understanding of the details of daily life.

From the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Weaving together a variety of subtly interrelated narratives, British author Hill (Air and Angels) embeds a thoughtful reflection on alternative medicine into a taut and suspenseful mystery, the first of a new crime series featuring Chief Insp. Simon Serrailler. 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 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. A dark but entirely convincing ending may startle some readers, but 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, who provides a blurb. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Lafferton, an idyllic village just far enough from the madness of London, is a paragon of tranquility and peace, with a lovely cathedral and a stand of ancient stones on "the Hill." But then a woman goes missing from there, and then another, and another. Young policewoman Freya Graffham is assigned to investigate the suspected serial killings. Recently transferred from London, she is young, bright, inquisitive, dedicated, and smitten with Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler, although her new friends warn her that he's enigmatic, withdrawn, and withholding of both affection and commitment. As their relationship and the investigation unfold, the killer is revealed in a series of eerie first-person passages. He is close to both Simon and Freya—and getting closer. This is the first of Whitbread Award the winner Hill's three Simon Serrailler mysteries (following Pure in Heartand Risk of Darkness) to be published in the United States after receiving high praise in Britain. Hill is a master storyteller with real talent for building atmosphere and suspense. Readers will be instantly drawn to her likable characters and beautiful landscape and will be carried along by the plot, right up to the shocking final twist. Fans of British mysteries will love this new series and Simon Serrailler as well. Highly recommended.
—Susan Clifford Braun
Kirkus Reviews
Whatever you do, don't go clumping up the Hill. At first, nobody thought much about Angela Randall's disappearance, though it was odd that this prim, conscientious, middle-aged job-holder would simply leave without a word. But Sgt. Freya Graffham, new to the Lafferton CID, has a bad feeling and decides to investigate the case with some help from DC Nathan Coates. They make few inroads until a pudgy young girl goes missing, too. The vanished don't seem to have much in common except for outings on the Hill and hints of depression that had driven them to alternate-therapy practitioners. Another woman, trying to deal with a life-threatening cancer, has also turned to the fringe element to deal with her problem. Freya and Nathan, now under auspices of the enigmatic but dishy Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler, must separate do-gooders from charlatans ranging from an acupuncturist to a spiritualist to a psychic surgeon (don't ask). The suspense builds, climaxing with another death, then plummeting with the denouement, which is nowhere near as gripping as the road leading to it. Freya's love obsession is a bit over the top, Simon is in need of serious fleshing-out, and surely it's old-hat to deride New Agers, incense, herbs and vegans. All in all, an inauspicious series beginning from an author (The Risk of Darkness, 2006, etc.) once short-listed for the Booker Prize. Agent: Anne Borchardt/Georges Borchardt Inc.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590200278
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Series: Simon Serrailler Series , #1
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 266,972
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Hill has won both the Whitbread and Somerset Maugham Awards and been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, as well as winning a Smarties prize for one of her children's books. Her most recent publications are the much-praised collection of short stories The Boy Who Taught the Beekeeper to Read, and the bestselling crime novels, The Various Haunts of Men, The Pure in Heart and The Risk of Darkness. She wrote Mrs de Winter, the sequel to Rebecca, and the ghost story, The Woman in Black, which was adapted for the stage and has been running in London for more than eighteen years.

Susan hill is married to the Shakespeare scholar, Stanley Wells, and they have two daughters. She lives in Gloucestershire where she runs her own small publishing firm, Longbarn Books.

From the Paperback edition.

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Foreword

1. Would you describe The Various Haunts of Men as a thriller, a mystery, a literary novel or some other genre? In what ways does this book use or confound the expectations of the crime genre?

2. How does the author build up a sense of the community and setting of Lafferton? How does this sense of place affect the crime plot? What are the roles of the other characters in the novel?

3. Discuss the character of Cat in detail. What do you think she contributes to the novel?

4. Consider the role of morality in The Various Haunts of Men. Look in particular at the religious and ethical beliefs of the different characters. Discuss the theme of belief in the novel.

5. Who is the hero of The Various Haunts of Men?

6. Discuss how the value of life is explored in the book.

7. Consider the structure of the novel. Look at how the author moves the focus of the story across the various characters — what do you think this achieves? Look particularly at how the passages narrated by the murderer are differentiated from the rest of the book. Which characters do you feel you know best by the end of the book?

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Reading Group Guide

1. Would you describe The Various Haunts of Men as a thriller, a mystery, a literary novel or some other genre? In what ways does this book use or confound the expectations of the crime genre?

2. How does the author build up a sense of the community and setting of Lafferton? How does this sense of place affect the crime plot? What are the roles of the other characters in the novel?

3. Discuss the character of Cat in detail. What do you think she contributes to the novel?

4. Consider the role of morality in The Various Haunts of Men. Look in particular at the religious and ethical beliefs of the different characters. Discuss the theme of belief in the novel.

5. Who is the hero of The Various Haunts of Men?

6. Discuss how the value of life is explored in the book.

7. Consider the structure of the novel. Look at how the author moves the focus of the story across the various characters — what do you think this achieves? Look particularly at how the passages narrated by the murderer are differentiated from the rest of the book. Which characters do you feel you know best by the end of the book?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fell Flat

    This book had such potential, but fell flat in my opinion. The description makes the book sound like a mystery/thriller, but it's written more like a drama. It felt like it was extremely drawn out, and at times I was completely bored. I picked the killer out half way through the book, but never really understood why he killed. There wasn't much momentum through the book. The shocker at the end was completely unfulfilling. And why it's called a Simon Serrailler mystery is beyond men. You barely see the man throughout the book and by the end you know next to nothing about him.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Various Haunts of Men

    My Synopsis:

    The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

    (Simon Serrailer Mystery series - Book 1)

    British author, Susan Hill weaves a chilling story set in the small cathedral town of Lafferton. Filled with strange disappearances, the New Age movement and alternative medicine, The Various Haunts of Men will leave a lingering impression.

    Freya Graffham came to Lafferton seeking a new start, peace and quiet, a change from hustle and bustle of her London career as a police officer. But, when she meets Chief Inspector, Simon Serrailer she finds herself out of her element. His quiet demeanor and commanding presence seem to draw her in and she soon finds herself in love.

    Her mind is torn between Simon and a lonely woman, whose disappearance she is investigating. When others quickly begin to disappear, Freya fears that they may be linked. Will she and Simon explore the possibility of a relationship? Is Lafferton dealing with a serial killer or just an odd coincidence?

    My Thoughts:

    This was very intriguing book. It explored the idea of alternative medicine and how disciplines like acupuncture and complementary treatments can go hand in hand with regular medicine. The New Age movement with it's spiritual healers and "psychic" surgeons is definitely interesting.

    I liked the way Hill, was able to develop Freya Graffham's character and make the reader understand her motivation in not only moving to Lafferton but in her search for Angela Randall. She seemed to have some strange connection with this woman, that wouldn't let her file the case away as just another missing person. That's the kind of detective I would want!

    Hill was able to give the reader a glimpse into the tangled and warped mind of a serial killer through the taped confessional. It was chilling and as the name of the novel implies, haunting. The book started a little slow for me, but when it did pick up speed, it barreled to a startling conclusion that I certainly wasn't prepared for, but seemed only fitting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2012

    This book was hard to follow the thread - everytime I had to put

    This book was hard to follow the thread - everytime I had to put it down to answer the phone (or whatever), I had a hard time getting back into it - this is not one of my favorite books. Just didn't seem to progress smoothly - and Simon is hardly mentioned at all throughout the book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2012

    Highly reccommend

    Well-written, taughtly-plotted

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2012

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    Posted November 10, 2012

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    Posted March 9, 2012

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