he is called to investigate a corpse discovered on a nearby beach. The only pointer to the man’s identity is an envelope that links him to the Woodyard Centre, a local daycare and drop-in space run by Venn’s husband Jonathan. The case gets even more uncomfortably close to home when Venn’s mother calls him about the disappearance of a girl who has a learning disability and also attended the centre. Fans of Jimmy Perez and Vera Stanhope need not worry: this is a traditional mystery of the best sort, with a likable protagonist and a strong female sidekick.
The million-selling Cleeves, who has already given us two unforgettable detectives, Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez, now introduces us to Detective Inspector Matthew Venn. He works in Cleeve’s childhood home in North Devon, and is a character for our times — a gay man married to his male partner... The investigation takes Venn back to his roots, and the cultish behaviour of the people he knew growing up. All this is set against Cleeve’s familiar sweeping sense of place and once again she demonstrates her unerring touch for character and her fierce grip of plot. A new detective star is born.
The Long Call... by Ann Cleeves finds the creator of the novels behind TV adaptations Shetland and Vera coming up with yet another memorable protagonist. Detective Matthew Venn has rejected his strict Evangelical community but finds himself drawn back into this cloistered world for a murder investigation. Splendid stuff, with Cleeves’ characteristic gift for locale (here north Devon).
A prolific author with two sturdy mystery series already underway, Cleeves has a fondness for quirky characters, several of whom show up here when Venn starts interviewing suspects. But Cleeves’s true strength lies in her descriptions of the natural world, gorgeously captured in this brief description of Venn listening to “the surf on the beach and the cry of a herring gull, the sound naturalists named the long call, the cry which always sounded to him like an inarticulate howl of pain.”
I like Venn. He is diffident and clever, prone to melancholia (he has sad eyes), self-doubt and anger, and is scarred by the rigid religious beliefs of his estranged family. He isn’t welcome at his father’s funeral, but he is happily married to Jonathan, his opposite in so many ways. Cleeves writes about their domestic relationship with affectionate detail and a resounding authenticity, just as she evokes the local landscape as if it were a character in its own right. She likes things on the margins, be they gay detectives or out-of-the way places... The plot moves at a healthy pace, and there is at least one surprise in store. By the end, The Long Call had me hooked — a promising beginning to another fine chapter in the Ann Cleeves story.