Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

Once again, thanks to Audible for their sales because I’ve just found a new author to follow. The Various Haunts of Men is the first in the Simon Serrailler series and it’s brilliant. But before I wax enthusiastic on this one, let me tell you what it was about.

A geriatric night-nurse with a well-ordered life goes running one morning and never returns, even though it was obvious she intended to do so. The only person who misses her is her employer, who held her in high regard and swears she wouldn’t just not show up for work, despite the statistics that tell her differently. She pressures the police into taking an interest which DI Freya Graffham does. She also can find no reason for the woman to have disappeared, she does however, discover the woman had a secret life and secret love, but they are just that, secret. There are absolutely no hints as to who the man is or where she met him, just and bills for gifts she gave him. The case seems to be going nowhere and Freya is even losing ground with DCI Serrailler who believes in her instinct, when they suddenly start connecting more and more disappearances. There is a particular hill that seems to swallow people up leaving no trace as to where they went.

Parallel to the disappearances, a couple of new alternative therapists arrive on the scene. DCI Serrailler’s sister, who is a doctor, is trying to figure out who they are and just how dangerous they may be.

This is a fairly complicated book with several stories running parallel to each other with seemingly no connection. I’ve read books where this has been the death of the novel because they move too slowly and the reader loses interest. Hill prevents this her life-like characters. She draws the reader in and makes them interested in what has happened to these people and what’s going on in their lives. When she leaves one hanging for a while and then returns to them, you find yourself wanting to know what the character has been doing in the meantime. I also found myself trying to make the connection between the incidents and people, just as Graffham was, which gave me an extra bit of affinity with her. I could feel her frustration and determination to find out just what was going on. Hill also doesn’t leave you out in the cold with clues and hints you aren’t privy to or can’t possibly understand. It’s actually quite the opposite, because the reader is privy to the many different stories connected with the disappearances. Even if you do figure it out before Graffham does, it doesn’t detract from the suspense because you switch back to worrying about the characters and egging them on to do what you already know would be the most sensible thing.

Brilliant story, well written and woven together, great characters. For the first time in a while I can give a book an unreserved 5 out of 5.

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