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.