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This was very well read and enjoyable. However, I felt that, suddenly, the author ran out of steam and interest as the ending was rather abrupt and various story lines were left in the air. Up to this point it was very engrossing. Suitable for both men and women.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful
Susan Hill's early novels were of the serious sort still labelled 'literary' and I devoured them when they appeared. I became aware that she had turned herself into a more 'popular' author when she started a stint as scriptwriter on The Archers. This is the first book of hers I have read since then.
I don't read many crime novels, because I expect to find them formulaic, like so many TV shows. 'The Various Haunts of Men' is certainly a strongly characterised, rather surprising story - for one thing, a highly sympathetic character is killed off - and death is deeply felt, not just material for a puzzle.
My reservation, though, is that the author appears to be too fond of some of her people, making them almost cloyingly altruistic and unrelievedly kind, like the worst sort of soap-opera stalwarts. She depicts the police as 100% dedicated, unprejudiced public servants, which really they are not. Her female characters seem to be over-busy for a novel - always doing drop-scones and meticulously making beverages; which is rather a lazy way for a writer to imply the ordinary background to extraordinary events.
Despite these peevish criticisms, I was glad to have downloaded the book. It had a strong sense of place, one I look forward to revisiting in the sequels. Steven Pacey is an excellent reader, reminding me of the superb David Timson.
I disagree with two points made by other reviewers. First, I am fed up of every piece of art or entertainment being classified as 'for women/men'. This stupid commodification of EVERYTHING by the gender binary is just another marketing ploy that most people seem happy to buy into. Come on, we are all human beings, and we all need stories. There's a middle ground, and this book belongs in it, as do most well-written novels. Secondly, the ending of Susan Hill's book is perfectly in tune with tone of her narrative, which stresses psychological development, not merely suspense and satisfying retribution.
37 of 41 people found this review helpful
Although set conventionally in a country cathedral city with pleasant villages around, this detective story is certainly not "cosy". It is presented in the format whereby the thoughts of a very creepy killer are interspersed between the thoughts and feelings of the victims and description of the police actions. In this respect it is extremely well written and although you may often suspect what is about to happen it is still frighteningly suspenseful and almost impossible to stop listening.
The book also highlights the particular gullibility of those who are unhappy or depressed and how easy it is for them to be exploited and manipulated by the unscrupulous.
The large and varied cast of civilian characters, even minor ones, are interesting and well described. DCI Simon Serailler is as yet a fascinating enigma and it is fortunate that there are further books to come where we mayl find out more about him and his team. It is good to see that they are also narrated by Steven Pacey who makes each character an individual and adds much to the enjoyment of listening to this book and I definitely look forward to listening to the rest of the series.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of The Various Haunts of Men to be better than the print version?
Susan Hill is equally good on the page and on audiobook. Steven Pacey's tone, pace and expression are well judged.
What did you like best about this story?
The Serrailler family is so well depicted that I feel I know them. I have a strong mental image of the farmhouse kitchen, Simon's flat and the cathedral close.
Crime fiction which concentrates on the 'why' as much as the 'who' appeals to me. The crime is always in a social and even, in the broadest sense, political context.
What about Steven Pacey’s performance did you like?
The narration is not overstated. As a listener one is aware of the content rather than the performance.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Susan Hill is in touch with the full range of human emotions and shares them with us intelligently.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful