Mary's Library

Friday, November 10, 2006

Crossovers - 2

Mysteries that can make their way in the world without being relegated to the crime fiction category are proliferating. And among the crime books that have jumped the fence is the first in a series of mysteries by Susan Hill, The Various Haunts of Men (2004.)

The book is about an English detective, Simon Serrallier, a complex man who has trouble putting together the different parts of his personality. One of the primary mysteries in this book is the question of what makes Simon Serrallier tick and how the dynamics of his family has made him the man he is.

The crimes are solved with the help of Serrallier's staff; his sister, who is a doctor; her colleagues; and her friend and patient who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. And interesting as are the various suspicious characters and the mystery of who murdered whom, it's the dying woman who most captured my attention. She is searching for something - anything - to help her cope with her situation and to give her peace and acceptance.

She doesn't find what she's looking for, but she does find what she needs and she is able to share her understanding of life and death with others. Her doctor, whose flexibility and open-mindedness have not extended to acceptance of the end of life as a natural part of it, begins to see the need for some people to avoid heroic medical interference in the course of a hopeless disease.

The most appealing character and the one through whose point of view we see the story is a colleague of Serrallier who has the makings of a first rate detective herself and whose understanding of herself and others Hill has developed carefully.

I'm not even touching on the woven themes of the story or the allusions and implications that are lying between the lines. And I'm avoiding the elephant in the room. The book has a dramatic and for me totally unexpected event at the end about which there is almost nothing I can say that isn't a spoiler.

You are going to have to struggle to get a copy of The Various Haunts of Men in the US. There are so few of them in libraries in this country that my copy had to be fetched from the other side of the continent. I was interested to see that it came from the College of William and Mary, whose academic library is not one devoted to the likes of Agatha Christie and Robert B Parker.

The book is scheduled to be released in this country next April. Meanwhile you can request it on Interlibrary Loan through your local public or university library. It might not hurt to rattle the cage of your library's acquisitions people and urge them to acquire all of the books in the four-book series, because you are going to want to read them all. You can purchase it, along with the others, from the English publisher, Long Barn Books.

Thanks to dovegreyreader for introducing me to this fine writer.


At 8:31 PM PST , Blogger booklogged said...

I've been hearing some good things about Susan Hill lately, too. Another one that I'm adding to my list. I'm doing a couple challenges right now and I love them, but it means that I'm not as likely to pick up something spur of the moment. And when I add something to my list it seems a long ways off until I can even think about reading it.

At 2:29 AM PST , Blogger dovegreyreader said...

Good news Mary, you're hooked!Let me know if you'd like me to send you the others, readily available here, perhaps we could do an exchange for books I can't get hold of easily in the UK? Or perhaps rattling library cages is more productive?

At 8:20 AM PST , Blogger emasl said...

Mary - I have read all of these books and they are simply brilliant. If you have any problems getting these, let me know, I can pick them up at WH Smith at my commuter station any time and can post them to you from work (post free...ssshhh). I mean it - just leave me a message over at RandomJottings and all can be arranged. Elaine

At 8:43 AM PST , Blogger Mary said...

booklogged: I suggest you apply at your library for an ILL of Various Haunts of Men. By the time it gets to you there's a chance you'll be retired and have more time to read (i.e., takes a long time to arrive.) It's a really really good book.


At 8:45 AM PST , Blogger Mary said...

dove, Thank you for the offer of an exchange. Right now I'm in the cage rattling stage but I can foresee the need to buy these books and re-read them. I'm in the middle of Pure of Heart right now and it looks like it's going to be a gripping as Haunts.


At 8:48 AM PST , Blogger Mary said...

Elaine, Thank you for your offer to acquire the Hill books for me. I'm hoping they are going to be published in the US in the spring and I plan to buy a couple of copies of each to encourage the publishers. If they don't show up I may take you up on your offer.

By the way, I enjoy your blog enormously and read it regularly. I get a lot of referrals from you.



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