I love books with maps!!!
When I opened the front cover of The Various Haunts of Men (the first Simon Serrailler book) and discovered this I did a little happydance. If you click on the image you’ll get to a full size version.
Lafferton is a fictional cathedral town somewhere in Southern England.
Between the map in the book and the descriptions in the story a fairly clear image of the town is created.
On Susan Hill’s Website she says of Lafferton “I am often asked if it is based on a real place. No, but if you think of places like Exeter or Salisbury you are on the right lines.”
“It was small, but not too small, had wide, leafy avenues and some pretty Victorian terraces and, in the Cathedral Close, fine Georgian houses. The Cathedral itself was magnificent . . . and there were quality shops, pleasant cafes.”
–From The Various Haunts of Men
Based on the first two books (all of the series I’ve read so far) these are some of the important places in Lafferton and the surrounding countryside (not all are on the map).
The Cathedral which dominates the central part of town and its peaceful grounds are a part of so many stories. It is the scene of weddings, funerals, and some of Freya Graffham’s introduction to the people of the town as she joins the choir.
I actually think that this aerial photo of Exeter which Susan Hill describes as being something close to the fictional Lafferton is pretty close to my own mental image of Lafferton.
DCI Simon Serrailler lives in an apartment near the Cathedral. It is actually in a building that is primarily used as businesses and therefore mostly empty when he’s home. His apartment very much fits him. It’s a perfect home for a man who seems to be a loner and fairly aloof. The Town Square, Police Station and pubs are all within walking distance.
His triplet sister Cat and her husband and kids live a few miles out of town in a comfortable, casual and homey farmhouse. It’s here where Simon retreats for nurturing and to relax with his sister and her family and is a stark contrast to his own apartment. It’s more of a safe zone for him than his parents home.
His parents home (Hallam House) is outside of town and something on a much grander scale. Both of them successful and respected physicians his mother has retired to a life of charity work and restoring the gardens at their large home.
It’s a friendly enough little town and the distinct neighborhoods become familiar as the series progresses. There are the working class folks who live in the Dulcie Estates who have distrust for the cops (particularly when he was born as one of their own as is DS Nathan Coates).
The neighborhood where Freya lives in a small artisan’s cottage is a grid of twelve streets known as the Apostles for their proximity to the Cathedral.
The places around Lafferton are as much of the story as the crimes that are investigated. The books have strong stories of the people around Simon and their places in his life and in the town are something that Susan Hill manages to express so well in the books.