The Various Haunts of Men
Lafferton is a cathedral town in England. CID Officer Freya Graffham was happy to leave the London police force and a bad marriage behind there. She moved here and started a new job with the force in Lafferton a few weeks earlier. A woman comes in to report a missing person. Freya is the officer who talks with her. Angela Randall, a middle-aged, solitary single woman is missing. She was last seen at her job on Thursday morning. She was scheduled off for a week but never returned. Her employer reports her missing. When Freya had Miss Randall's home checked, it was left as if she expected to be back shortly. As time goes on and the woman isn't found, the case becomes lower priority. Freya feels there is more, but can't justify the man hours to keep looking.
When another woman disappears a few months later, she is sure the two incidents are related. There isn't enough to connect them, though. She convinces her superior, Simon Serrailler, there is something. Like her, when nothing more is found, he has her cut back on the investigation. The Lafferton police are very busy with a nasty drug ring in the area so resources are being funneled into that instead.
Freya settles into her new life and town. She joins a choral group and is able to sing again - something she had dropped during her unhappy marriage. She meets new people, including Simon Serrailler's family. His sister, Cat Deerbon, and her husband are busy general practitioners in Lafferton. His mother is involved in many charities around Lafferton as well as the choral group. Soon Freya has new friends and is settling into her new life. She isn't happy when she falls in love with someone who barely notices her, but she goes on with her new life anyway.
After a third woman disappears the cases all become more important. The Lafferton CID group is sure there is a connection between the disparate disappearances. Freya holds a key to the abductors identity. Can she stop this person in time without endangering herself?
The Various Haunts of Men is an excellent psychological mystery. Susan Hill quickly sets the tone for Lafferton and the surrounding towns. It's a friendly area with shadows hanging over it. The book always has those shadows lurking, ready to take over.
The novel has numerous story lines going on at one time. There are personal bits from a confession tape made by the abductor. There is the police work focusing on the missing women and the drug problem, along with other day to day matters. (This book spans six to eight months.) Freya is adapting to a new environment and friends. Cat Deerbon is involved in her patient's lives, including a close friend with breast cancer. Alternative medicine - both good and quackery - takes an important portion of the story line. Hill is able to take all the threads and wind them together into an intriguing novel with an unexpected ending.
When we get into the abductor's mind the book gets chilling. When the choral group is singing in the cathedral the book becomes friendly, moving. Freya's frustration and hopes over her new love ring true to the reader. The reader gets twisted into the story, identifying with the characters. And at the end, the reader wants to go back and change things. But we all know we can't change the past...
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The Various Haunts of Man
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