The first in the Simon Serrailler trilogy, The Various Haunts of Men is about mysterious disappearances on a still more mysterious hill in a small English town.
There’s very little Simon Serrailler for a Simon Serrailler book, but that’s okay–the rest of the cast is dynamic, involving, and interesting. Freya Graffam, a detective who’s just transferred to the town of Lafferton from London, is a smart and dedicated cop and a wonderful investigator to follow. You don’t even really miss Serrailler, even though you get intriguing glimpses of him (mostly through a love-struck Freya).
Hill’s writing is elegant. It’s like watching a very high-brow police procedural. Dark yet still compelling and appealing, with a building tension. The narrative switches a lot between characters, giving a sense of the scope of the town and its people, as well as their connections. It’s a nice mix of small-village story and crime.
One of the many POV’s in the book is a tape being narrated by the killer, and it’s very chilling and crazy. The killer’s sections make a nice counterpoint to Graffam’s hunt. And I have to give props to the one of the best killer motivations I’ve seen in a while, and very well-done reveal. A real sucker-punch dark ending, too.
An engaging and intricately constructed bit of crime fiction, and a promising start to a series. I’ll look forward to reading others, to see how Serrailler and his town are fleshed out.
If you’re a British mystery fan, and you like P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Kate Atkinson, and/or Elly Griffiths, you might want to give this a try!