Thursday, January 28, 2010

a review of "The Various Haunts of Men" [7]

The Various Haunts of Men- A Simon Serrailler Mystery
(The Overlook Press, ISBN 978-1-58567-876-1)

Angela Randall, a solitary, middle-aged woman, disappears one day while on her morning run and largely go unmissed. Her boss goes to the police after several days, to report that she has not shown up for work, but there is no sign of anything criminal, so the police do not seem to think it is worthy of much investigation. There is one oddly, that it appears she had purchased a number of very expensive gifts for some unknown man, but that too prove a dead in and the police shortly move on to more important matters. Except there is something about the case that DS Freya Graffham can not let go.

Freya is new to the force in Lafferton, a rather charmingly portrayed cathedral town, having moved there from London after her divorce, looking for a new start in her personal life and in her career in the police department. She has a sense that there is something more going on with the disappearance, but she is not successful in convincing her superiors, including Inspector Simon Serrailler, until a second...and then a third...woman disappears. Then it is impossible to ignore the fact that there is some terrible evil going on in their quiet town.

This is the first in what is now a four book series, and while it is called a "Simon Serrailler Mystery", in fact Simon plays a rather minor role in this book. Freya, and the charming DC Nathan Coates, are at the center of this story. In fact, Simon's sister, Dr. Cat Deerborn plays a larger role than he does, since several of the missing people have ties to her medical practice. Most of what we come to know about Simon in this first installment in the series comes from what his sister and brother in law and parents reveal rather than directly from Simon's role. This is a very character heavy book...which is just up my I can only assume that the smaller role of Simon in this book is intentional. An intention that becomes clearer, I think, with the surprising ending to the story. What happens in this story will not end with the last page of the book but will continue to form our view of the interesting, and not totally likable, character of Simon Serrailler.

We see the events play out from several points of views, through the eyes of the victims, the police and even the killer. There are a number of storylines going on, and even though my sister-in-law though a few loose ends were left hanging, I thought the author did a fine job of tying it all together. The identity and motive of the killer, when finally revealed, may not be a total surprise, but without question the ending is truly shocking. And in my opinion, quite excellent.

This is an intelligent, very well written, police procedural and I know that, without question, I will be checking out the other three books in the series. An engrossing, very entertaining read that I would give a strong recommendation to.

My thanks to the free county library system for this one.


  1. Nowadays I feel there really needs to be something really special about these types of books for them to stand out. Glad this one met your expectations. I'm not totally convinced, but I'll do a little digging into the series.

  2. So now after I am reading your great review, I'm asking myself WHY this book sits on my shelf unread??

  3. Sandy, for me, the series must have some outstanding characters...which this one does.

    Diane, I suggest you take it off the shelf, read it and tell me what you think.

  4. I love books that I can get lost in - this one sounds like it would keep me flipping those pages!

  5. Excellent review! I read this last year and loved it. I was totally shocked by the ending too ... totally did not see that coming!

    If you are interested, here is what I wrote about it: (I know I always like reading reviews after I've written mine ... and you don't see many reviews of this one out there.)

    Also, I've been wanting to read the rest of this series but haven't had much luck getting them through Paperback Swap. I think I'll have to resort to the library as well.

  6. I have read the second in the series and it is quite good. A lot more about Simon...and his family....and oh yes, a crime too.


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