Author – Ann Cleeves
Published – September 2019
Genre – Crime fiction
It can’t be easy to embark on a new series with new characters when you’re already known for two really successful ones (Vera and Jimmy Perez/Shetland) but if Ann Cleeves had any worries then, in my view, they were unfounded.
The main character in the new series is Matthew Venn, a Detective Inspector based on the North Devon coast. He’s a quiet, thoughtful character, something of a contrast to both Vera and Perez. His parents raised him in a strict evangelical community that he rebelled against in his teens, but he’s returned to the area he grew up in and as the plot unfolds he has to face some of the events and people from his past.
A body is discovered on the shore not far from Venn’s own home, the victim is a man with a complex past and it takes some time for the team to unravel where he came from and who he is. The first witness to come forward with information is a young girl with Down’s Syndrome who attends The Woodyard, an arts and crafts community hub that incorporates a day centre for adults with learning difficulties. The Woodyard is run by Venn’s husband, ensuring the story centres around a confined group of characters.
The location of the book was one of those odd moments of synchronicity. I had just started the book when I had a weekend away in Devon and we drove to Staunton, driving through Barnstaple, across the rivers (the series is the ‘Two Rivers’) and through Baunton which features in the story. As with her other series the location is important to the story but nothing beats being able to go ‘I know where that is’ when you’re reading.
The story is quite a slow one and is more character-led than action, in some ways it has the sensibilities of ‘cosy crime’ but in others it’s unflinching in the issues it confronts. It would be hard to read it and not notice the diversity of the characters but it didn’t feel as if any of them didn’t have the right to their place in the book or felt shoe-horned in.
If you follow my blog you will know that UK police procedurals are my favourite sub-genre of crime fiction and I’m thrilled that this didn’t disappoint. Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.