Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Various Haunts of Men (trade, $13.95), by Susan Hill

So I was told a long time ago that this was a pretty good series. It just took me a while to get to it. I wish I hadn't waited so long, because I enjoyed this first book tremendously.

Brit Susan Hill is perhaps better known for having written The Woman in Black, which was turned into a successful play on the London stage. As was obvious from the play and is reiterated in this book, she certainly can deal out the atmosphere like no one else.

Hill is also very good at keeping all the juggling pins up in the air. There are several intriguing storylines and potential red herrings.

Freya Graffham has moved from the intense and alienating London police world to the quiet and comforting town of Lafferton. Sergeant Graffham has found her voice again, literally. She has joined a choir, through which she has made new friends and found the happiness that had eluded her during a disastrous marriage. Her new boss, Simon Serrailler, presents the ultimate challenge, both as the head of her detective unit and as a sophisticated, intelligent, attractive man.

Too bad there's a serial killer on the loose.

With the aid of goofy-faced and loyal DC Nathan Coates and Simon's sister, Dr. Cat Deerbon, Freya first has to prove that there is a serial killer, then tenaciously pursues him.

The characters are well-defined and very human in their failings. Freya has a tender heart, a clear direction, and her future seems limitless. Cat, who shares a large portion of the stage, is a do-it-all mom, village doctor, and functional human being from a slightly dysfunctional family. This book belongs to them more than to the other characters, but the others are fleshed out admirably.

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