Sunday, December 13, 2015

Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves

Sometimes, I forget how much I love police procedurals. Then I read a book such as Ann Cleeves' latest Vera Stanhope mystery, Harbour Street. Cleeves makes me regret every book I'm reading that is not a procedural.

Just before Christmas, Detective Joe Ashworth and his daughter, Jessie, are taking the Metro train home when the train is forced to stop because of bad weather. But, Jessie had noticed an elegant looking elderly woman didn't move when everyone else got off the train. When she slipped back to wake her, she found her dead. What a mess for Joe's boss, Inspector Vera Stanhope, and her team to clean up, with passengers who had disappeared into the snowy evening.

Vera knows she's not supposed to do the day-to-day investigating work. She's to sit in the office, and supervise. But, that's not Vera Stanhope. She's a crusty, formidable woman who can be pushy at times, or quietly work her way into someone's confidences. When she learns Margaret Krukowski had lived on Harbour Street for years, Vera and the team question residents, beginning with Kate Dewar, owner of the house where Margaret lived. People seemed to see Margaret as virtuous. To some, she appeared to be a saint. But, even saints have their secrets, and Vera Stanhope is determined to discover what secret led to Margaret's murder.

Cleeves brings the village of Mardle, and Harbour Street, vividly to life. It's a fishing village, eager to be more than it is, but it appears grey and isolated at times. And, Vera's team discovers that the first murder, and a subsequent one, seem to connect to a small community in Mardle, where people have a history that goes back for years.

Cleeves' Vera Stanhope mysteries are excellent, atmospheric procedurals with a strong sense of place. They are intricately plotted, with characters that are intriguing and complicated, particularly Vera herself. She has a bleak outlook on life after a rough childhood. She broods over the cases. She sees Joe, her sergeant, as "her surrogate son, her protege, and her conscience". And, despite the fact she's supposed to be a supervisor, she obsesses over the details of every case, wanting to be right.

The Vera Stanhope mysteries are published earlier in the U.K. than they are in the U.S. This one came out a year later here. But, it's never too late to discover these atmospheric mysteries. Anyone who appreciates the step-by-step investigative techniques in a police procedural, the triumph of justice, will welcome the return of Vera Stanhope in Harbour Street.

Ann Cleeves' website is

Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves. Minotaur Books. 2015. ISBN 9781250070661 (hardcover), 376p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Rosemary said...

Morning Lesa - do you watch this series on TV? We love it, largely because Brenda Blethyn is so perfect in the title role.

Did you know Ann started writing these books when she was with her husband at bird observatories and, not sharing his enthusiasm, had nothing else to do? I wish I was that productive instead of wasting too much of my time on FB or word games!

Jeff Meyerson said...

We've watched all the VERA episodes on PBS. This one was called "On Harbour Street" when it was dramatized. The basic outline sounds the same (I haven't read the book), so I wonder if it was the same killer.

Joe left the show before the latest series, by the way.

Harvee, Book Dilettante said...

I can't believe I haven't read Ann Cleves. Must check her books out.

Lesa said...

I haven't seen the Vera Stanhope mysteries on our PBS station, but then our PBS station isn't always up-to-date with what it's showing. I've only seen an episode on dvd because Minotaur Books sent it to me. I wish. Harvee Lau, as you can tell from what Rosemary & Jeff said, you might want to check out the books.