This is the first in a series of crime novels by Susan Hill, featuring a detective called Simon Serailler. There are echoes of both Dalgleish and Morse in Hill's creation. He shares the creative
side of Dalgleish, being an artist of some renown, and shows the refined tastes of a Morse. Thef ictional cathedral town setting also nods in the
direction of Dexter's Oxford. However, it would be wrong to view these books as any more derivative than is inevitable when writing within the
confines of crime fiction. In any case, these novels refuse to be confined. They are as much about relationships as crime, and in the
familial as well as the romantic sense. Serailler comes from a family steeped in the medical profession and is regarded almost a traitor for
finding a different vocation. It is partly on account of this that his relationship with his father is difficult, but this is offset by a
strong bond with his twin sister. In his romantic attachments, Serailler is less successful. The blame for this seems to lie on his own shoulders. In the second of the books, his sister his highly critical of the way he treats the women in his life.
Susan Hill was already well established as an author when "The Various Haunts of Men" was published in the summer of 2004. When I picked it up the jacket notes made it clear that it was part of a series. This made the ending, which I wont give away, all the more surprising. A situation
that appeared to be being set up to run through a series of books was brought to a shocking climax. If anything the second book, "The Pure of
Heart," published in 2005 is even better than the first.
The first two Serailler books are now available in paperback. I have still to read the third in the series "The Risk of Darkness" which was released earlier this year, but I'm very much looking forward to picking up the story.