Author – Ann Cleeves
Published – 2002
Genre – Crime fiction
With a shortage of books to read which would fit in my handbag I was lucky to get a boxed set of mixed crime titles from WH Smith. I thought I would start with the Ann Cleeves title. She’s not an author I had come across before but had heard of her through the recent TV adaptation of her Vera Stanhope books.
Detective Peter Porteous has been called to Cranwell Lake, where the body of a teenager has been discovered. After trawling through missing persons files, he deduces that the corpse is Michael Grey, an enigmatic and secretive eighteen-year-old reported missing in 1972.
Prison librarian Hannah Morton is about to get the shock of her life. For Michael was her boyfriend, and she was with him the night he disappeared. The news report that his body has been found brings back dreaded and long-buried memories from her past and begins a deadly chain of events.
A drought leads to the discovery of a body in a man-made lake. The detective called in to investigate is Peter Porteous – a policeman who seems to have suffered from stress and moved to small town to help him avoid too much pressure. The body has been in the lake for over 10 years and the evidence suggests a murder. Taking a calm approach to the investigation, Porteous begins by reviewing the files of missing persons to narrow down the list of potential victims. As with all good police / detective stories Porteous works closely with an assistant – in this case Detective Sergeant Stout. He’s a local copper, older than Porteous, and a lay Minister for the local Methodist church. During the case his local knowledge proves invaluable, but he also fosters a grudge against someone who crops up as a possible suspect.
While the police work on the identification, we’re introduced to Hannah Morton, a prison librarian, recently separated from her husband, and living with her teenage daughter. After a particularly difficult day at work Hannah decides to take a break and attend a school reunion. And this is where the two strands of the story meet. The victim is identified as Michael Grey, and Hannah was his girlfriend at the time of his disappearance.
The book then really gets underway as the police try to piece together more about Micheal’s past and Hannah starts to feel as if she may be a suspect.
I liked Hannah – I thought her character was realistic. She was trying to manage her relationship with her daughter while overcoming the break-up of her marriage – she had moments when she seemed to lack confidence and (risky) ones where she was more spontaneous.
I wasn’t sure about the “anti-stress” detective, perhaps I prefer more running about & action from my policemen?
The book reached a conclusion where we found out who the murderer was and tied up some loose ends along the way. Without intending to give anything away, I wondered if the resolution was too neat. There was the conventional spotlight on suspects that were red herrings and you could probably have figured out the killer before then end, but I didn’t.
I didn’t find that the author had a particularly enjoyable style of writing – not the easy-going style of Peter James or the more literary style of David Hewson. I also struggled with the timeline – this was yet another book that jumped around between the past and present, and I couldn’t always get the sequence of events right. This was a decent read for the daily commute and I’m sure I’ll read more by Cleeves.
Score – 3/5