Several years ago, I read a mystery called “The various haunts of men“. It remains as one of my favorite mysteries to this day. It is only fitting then, that I feature Susan Hill in my ‘Series to Savour‘ blog series.
The late, great, Ruth Rendell said “Not all great novelists can write crime fiction but when one like Susan Hill does the result is stunning”.
About Susan Hill (from the author’s website)
Susan Hill’s writing career has encompassed acclaimed literary novels, ghost stories, children’s books, detective novels and memoirs. She has won the Whitbread, Somerset Maugham and John Llewelyn Rhys awards, as well as having been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. The Woman in Black, her terrifying ghost story, is still running as a play in the West End and is now a successful film. She has established her own publishing imprint, Long Barn Books. She now lives in a Gloucestershire farmhouse where she has been known to whistle… a lot!
The multi-award-winning author has been writing professionally for over 50 years! Besides being more than adept as a mystery novelist, she has also written quite a few ghost stories. Probably the most famous of her ‘ghost stories’ was “The woman in black” which was adapted into an acclaimed feature film, starring Daniel Radcliffe, which came out in 2012.
Her protagonist, Simon Serrailler, is a police Chief Inspector working in Lafferton, a small cathedral town in England. To others he appears enigmatic and aloof – a loner. He comes from an upper middle class background. Women find him very attractive. He is an artist in his spare time. He is emotionally damaged.
I’ll admit that in the very first Simon Serrailler novel, he doesn’t play a huge part, though his character is introduced and his backstory explained so as to ‘set up’ the series. The limelight of the first novel falls on Freya Graffham, a rookie policewoman who is partnered with Serrailler on the missing persons case which the novel is centered around. I really liked Freya and sympathized with her and her feelings of ‘getting in over her head‘.
I think most fiction books should contain maps. I was delighted to find a map of the fictional town of Lafferton in the front of “The various haunts of men“. Susan Hill has compared her fictional town to both Exeter and Salisbury.
This series (which began in 2004) is an intelligent addition to the British police procedural mystery where the crimes play second fiddle to the characters.
There is also talk of a television adaptation. ITV plans to make the crime drama a long-running series, with the broadcaster said to be viewing the show as a modern-day Morse. I personally cannot wait!
The eight novels featuring Simon Serrailler are:
The prolific Susan Hill is the author of over 55 works including fiction, collections of short stories, non-fiction, and children’s literature. Her bibliography can be found here.
I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read any of the Simon Serrailler series –
or if you plan to.