The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

The Various Haunts of Men ‘The Various Haunts of Men’ by Susan Hill is the first book in the Simon Serrailler series of crime novels.  A series of mysterious disappearances on the Hill near the small cathedral town of Lafferton catches the attention of Detective Sergeant Freya Graffham.  A middle-aged woman, a man, a young girl and a dog have all gone missing at the same spot.  But what exactly happened to them all and why?

‘The Various Haunts of Men’ is an old-fashioned sort of detective story with a chilling plot which unravels slowly.  Hill has a particular talent for creating suspense, atmosphere and tension, most famously in ‘The Woman in Black’ and her other ghost stories. She also uses this to good effect here, particularly when the different characters and the crimes are being introduced in the opening chapters.

I think ‘The Various Haunts of Men’ would seem quite under-developed if it is read as a stand-alone book. I got the feeling that there is a lot more character development to come later in the rest of the series.  Most notably, I was quite surprised that Simon Serrailler himself wasn’t really the driving force in this novel especially given that the series of books is meant to be about him.  In this particular story, it is actually his colleague Freya Graffham who is more involved in handling the case.  I thought Freya’s crush on Simon was a bit annoying and unnecessary but otherwise, the story was very well written and structured.

‘The Various Haunts of Men’ is an enjoyable and atmospheric crime story which had been compared with the novels of Ruth Rendell and P. D. James. Although the solution to the mystery was perhaps not the biggest surprise in the world, the events at the end of the story set the scene up nicely for the next book in the series, ‘The Pure in Heart’, which I will be reading sometime next year. Hopefully, Simon Serrailler himself will have more of a presence in his next case.

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7 responses to “The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

  1. Well this sounds very interesting and I’d like to read more mysteries. Will have to put this one on my TBR. Thanks for the concisely written review.

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  2. I can feel your frustration with the “crush”! That’s so corny I wouldn’t have expected it from a classy writer like Susan Hill.

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  3. I will really have to put this on my list. I read “The Woman in Black” this year, and I was so terrified I kept imagining I was hearing things when I was reading this alone at night. She’s amazing at creating suspense and terror 🙂

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  4. I think I have read this whole series, but must check and see if there are any new ones.

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  5. Sorry to put a dampener on this but while the latter books do develop the characters further in terms of decent crime fiction this is the best of a series that has gone down hill ever since. Some of the plots are so stereotypical that you can pretty much predict who did it even before it has been done and I’m afraid Serrailler is a rather nasty character.

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  6. I read the last of the Simon Serralier’s series and felt so lost that I gave it as a present to a professor of mine. But I think I should give the series a try from the beginning because everyone loves both the crimes and the detective!

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