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Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Various Haunts Of Men by Susan Hill

First of all, have you noticed how the colors of the books I've been reading lately have moved from blue to earth tones, brown, sepia, green, gray?  Just an observation.  I like putting the covers there on the sidebar because I think they are eye-catching.

I totally loved listening to Susan Hill's first Simon Serrailler mystery, The Various Haunts of Men.  Truly.  Just a peach of a book.  I've been meaning to read this series for a long, long time and have not ever picked it up.  Listening is a wonderful way to experience this author's writing.  The narrator, Steven Pacey, does an excellent job.  His voice is well modulated and so very British.  No weirdness when he does the female voices.  It's soothing, but doesn't put you to sleep.

The setting is Lafferton, a cathedral town that also has a tor.  Reminded me of Glastonbury as I guess it's supposed to.  The area has a plethora of new age devotees, healers of all sorts, alternative lifestyles and medicines, practitioners named things like "Darva" and psychics and even a psychic surgeon, whatever that is supposed to be.  In this initial book, the author introduces us to Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler, his team, and his family.  Simon is one of triplets.  His brother and sister are medical doctors, like both his parents.  He is the odd man out in many respects.  A policeman and an artist.  There is a younger sister, Martha, that is mentioned, but she lives in a care home for disabled individuals.

DCI Serrailler has a new Detective Sergeant named Freya Graffham, who has recently come to Lafferton from the "Met" in London.  She joins the area choir with Serrailer's mother and gets to know his sister, Dr. Cat Deerbon.  She also is assigned to investigate some women who have gone missing.  Freya has a hunch that these women did not go off on their own and she pursues her investigation doggedly.  And then more individuals go missing.  Several of them have visited some of the alternative practitioners that abound in the area.  Is all of this connected?  Meanwhile, the reader is apprised of some of the notes of the one who is indeed "practicing" on the missing people.  And Freya herself is getting really too close.

I loved the descriptions of the area, the introduction to the Serrailler family as a whole and to the Lafferton CID as well.  DC Nathan Coates, who assists Freya in her inquiries, is cute and funny and irreverent.  Simon Serrailer seems kind, if distant, and he's certainly not a "chip off the old block".  I enjoyed the presentation of various types of alternative treatments, even the psychic surgeon.  And included with all of this is a very intriguing mystery.  The story takes it's time and doesn't rush, but by the end I was not even looking for excuses to listen.  I was just listening, wanting to know how things would be resolved.  A definite winner for me.

I enjoyed this book so much, I have moved right on to the next book in the series, The Pure In Heart.  Happily, this series has 8 books at this point and I have lots of good reading or listening to come.  


23 comments:

  1. Sounds fantastic! I love a book that is completely atmospheric, and that cover and title seems to do its tone justice! I really love books that are set in a "town" too. You can always expect distinct characters!

    Random Ramblings

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    1. I'm enjoying the second book just as much. I love getting to know a set of new characters, plus the mystery.

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  2. Marvelous review, Kay! I immediately went to my library website and am downloading the audio for this book as I type. Hooray! I've been meaning to get back to this series for quite some time now. I read The Shadows in the Streets (#5) two years ago and enjoyed it immensely. You should read your comment on my post. ;)

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    1. Well, I did read my comment and it only took me 2 years to finally read this one. That's actually not too bad. And I still haven't really let go of the whole "read in order" compulsion. A little bit, but not totally. I think that this might not have suited as well if I wasn't in the mood for a slower book. Lots of details, but it took a while. And it was just right for me at this moment.

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    2. I just started listening to the audio, Kay! So far, I'm loving the narrator's voice. I'm going to get a copy of the book at my library, though, since I'll want to quote passages for my review. Thanks for bringing this series back to my attention!

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  3. I also meant to comment on book cover art. As a bookseller, it's always so interesting to me to see how book covers tend to look a like at certain times during a season. We have All the Light You Cannot See and The Girl on the Train side-by-side on a couple of displays. The colors are identical! A lot of business books this winter have bright bold orange colors. Very eye-catching. For a time, it seemed like all the business books had white covers, which I thought was very odd (and dull). I am definitely a reader who is attracted to a book merely for it's cover art. I wonder how many great books I've ignored simply because the art work was less than appealing?

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    1. I know exactly what you mean. I am a total cover junkie. Actually, the cover can certainly affect my interest in a book. Speaking of displays, that was one of my favorite things to do at the library. In fact, I would kind of push them into doing them. I loved themes and colors and holidays. The first library I worked in had these kind of hanger things on the end of the shelving - B&N has that too - and I started filling the ones at the end of the mystery section with a theme. Those books flew out of there and the manager noticed me doing it. I was only a page (i.e. book shelver), but she asked me about it. Told her I loved it and couldn't keep books on the display. Books will be checked out if they are "face out", in my experience. A bookseller trick, right?

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  4. I read this a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so I'm not sure why I never kept going with the series! I'll have to check out the second book.

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    1. I'm liking the second one too. About half way through with it.

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  5. I recently picked up on this series again after a break and remembered quite why I'd enjoyed it so much. A great review and I do hope you enjoy the rest.

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  6. This sounds both intriguing and atmospheric. I think I've only read one book by this author. Will have to check out this series. Thanks for the great review, Kay!

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    1. Hope you try it and like it, Melody!

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  7. I've read three or four books in this series but I think I got a bit annoyed with the main character so I stopped. I really should give it another try though because you are right, the descriptions of the setting are so good. One thing I do remember from this one is that I was totally shocked by the ending. Can't wait to hear what you think of the next book!

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    1. Yes, I know exactly what you are talking about, Iliana. I'm enjoying the second one as well.

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  8. I absolutely have to start reading this series. A lot of people in Mystery Reader's Corner group on FB rave about the author.

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    1. I don't know why I waited so long to try it, Kaye.

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  9. Oh, you've reminded me that I really liked the only one in this series that I've read and that I never followed through with others in the series!

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    1. It seems that is the response from a lot of people. I'm pleased to be reminding several of this series.

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  10. One of these days, I would like to choose books based on titles, start with one and then find another book with a word in common with that first book's title and so on. I am not sure my mood reading would go along with that, but it sounds like a fun idea. This has nothing to do with your review at all, other than your opening about similar covers made me think of it. :-)

    This does sound like a good mystery. I haven't tried this series yet, but it's on my list to try.

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    1. I like that idea, Wendy. Haven't there been some memes in the past that used a variation of that? I just love covers. Kind of totally fascinated with covers.

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  11. I wonder if it is because England is smaller that there is more focus on this subject. I do find it interesting - Deborah Crombie featured it in one of her books.

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    1. You are right about a Crombie book. I had forgotten that.

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Thanks for stopping by! I am so happy to hear your thoughts and will respond as soon as I can. Happy Reading!