Lisa's Reviews > The Various Haunts of Men

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill
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's review
Dec 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: suspense
Read from February 02 to 05, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I agree with many of the reviewers who loved the depiction of Lafferton and its people. I loved Susan Hill's writing and thought that her descriptions were poetic and very true of all the characters.

Like others, I was annoyed that Simon Serrailler was peripheral to the story. I assume that we will see more of him later in the series. Also agree with others that there were many loose ends: who were the Tapes addressed to? Why did Freya suddenly turn into a bimbo at the very end and tell her killer exactly where to find her? (She'd seemed very acute as a detective up until that point.) It made a false note in a book filled with excellent character studies. Did the killer commit suicide? The doberman walker found a body but it was never explained in the story who it was. A rather large oversight -- or perhaps the author felt no need to spell everything out.

Hill spends increasing time over the arc of the book letting us get to know the characters. Especially each victim is increasingly well-drawn and thus, the pain of the loss of each one. Often, characters have a function in a story: Karin is there to say, "Cat has deep friendships over time." Iris is there to say, "Cat is a compassionate doctor." Debbie is there to say "Alternative medicine appeals to gullible losers." Meriel and Cat and Richard are there to say "Simon has a complex family." Nathan is there as the plucky comic relief. Freya is there to die so that Simon becomes a deeper character in future books. Hill paints each of these characters in much more detail than is usually the case with these stock characters. I loved that, and also hated that she killed many of them off after we grew to know them.

I was disappointed that Freya was killed -- it felt like a sudden renegotiation of the entire terms of the story right at the end. We know her mind throughout and all her thoughts and her crush on Simon and her love of her new home and her feelings about singing and her growing attachment to the town and her new friendships. Then, blam! She's canceled out and her perspective is excised.

It was annoying, however, that Aidan Sharpe was the least well drawn of the characters. Many of the comments and reviews say that it was a gripping study of the mind of a serial killer, but honestly, I was disappointed in Sharpe as the killer. He was a stereotype -- beady eyes and a bow tie!?! C'mon, Susan! He also talked about his emotional connection to his victims in just one spot -- before he commits suicide (?) -- but throughout the book he talks again and again about how he does NOT have any emotional connection to them and views them only as objects. I guess we should not expect consistency in a diseased mind, but it didn't persuade me and was a jarring departure. Also, I find it hard to believe he could have so many social relationships and appear at parties and meetings and not arouse any suspicion. Cat & Karin have a conversation about sensing evil in places and even in a brief contact with a waitress, and yet Cat never finds anything off about Aidan??? She recommends him again and again to her patients??? When he clearly has no emotional connection to healing and is detached and uncaring about people???

I liked the reasonably subtle hinting around and red herrings regarding the killer. I briefly suspected everyone (the osteopath, the third triplet, Chris Deerbon, Freya's ex Don, Simon's dad, even Simon), but I was mainly sure Sharpe was the killer from early in the book. So sure, it was a disappointment to find out I was right.

DESPITE all this carping, I really did adore the book. I will definitely want to read more in the series. Can't wait to actually get to know Simon!

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Lynn Let me know what you think...

message 2: by Lisa (last edited Feb 04, 2012 07:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa I can't put it down. I have a bad cold and you know how incredibly comforting it is to have a riveting book when you don't feel good. I'm on page 305 -- Iris has just gone missing. I just read the outstanding paragraph: "A contented life, Freya thought, the old-fashioned life still lived by so many people up and down the country in ordinary places... home cooking, gardening, neighborliness, shopping, a day's outing on a coach to a stately home; perhaps bingo occasionally, and otherwise, evenings with the television and books from the library. ...This is what we have come from at bottom, this is what we are, and this is what we, Nathan & I, are here to cherish and to protect."

I love Freya -- hope the bad guy doesn't get her.

message 3: by Lynn (last edited Feb 04, 2012 07:38AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynn I've just finished the 3rd book and have to get some "required reading" out of the way before I can continue with book 4, The vows of Silence.
She's written 6 in the Simon Serrailler series. With any kind of cooperation from Julia Spencer-Fleming, we can just alternate reading "across the pond" - Miller's Kill to Lafferton and back. :)

Jim has a bad cold, too. I assume I'll get it, too, but I hope not!
Hope you feel better.

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