A woman vanishes in the fog up on ‘the Hill’, an area known locally for its tranquillity and peace. The police are not alarmed; people usually disappear for their own reasons. But when a young girl, an old man and even a dog disappear, no one can deny that something untoward is happening in the quiet cathedral town.

Young policewoman Freya Graffham is assigned to the case; she’s new to the job, compassionate, inquisitive, dedicated and needs to know – perhaps too mcuh. She and the enigmatic Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler have the task of unravelling the mystery behind this gruesome sequence of events.

We found plenty to be happy about with June’s book, The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill, even if the title and its meaning proved to be somewhat elusive. Most of us enjoyed the continuous introducing of village characters, wondering which was our dastardly killer, and who in fact would be the next victim. And even though the majority of our members are seasoned mystery readers, Hill found more than a few ways of surprising us and throwing us off the mark. Some characterisation was considered a little on the stereotypical side and that maybe Serrailler was a little like something out of a romance novel, but then again, we are talking fiction here, so … why not!

The village setting was considered well done and Glynis made the comment that it became a character in itself, with its many faces portrayed through the occupants, and of course the Hill. Lee felt that it was her connecting with the characters that had her truly caring about them, which in turn makes for an enjoyable read. This led to a conversation about what it is that most connects us to a story … the characters, the setting or the plot. We differed a little here, which is only to be expected, but it was unanimously agreed that Various Haunts was a great read and our group is already planning a revisit to the Simon Serrailler series with The Pure in Heart. It would be hard to get a better recommendation than that!

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