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
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.