Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Long Call By Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves introduces a new series and a new protagonist with The Long Call. The author of the Shetland and Vera Stanhope books brings us another troubled character, Detective Inspector Matthew Venn of the Devon and Cornwall Police Department. He's the perfect lead for a team of officers who investigate the murder and then disappearance of people who are often lost in society.

Matthew Venn stood outside the venue for his father's funeral. Years earlier, he became an outcast from their sect, the Barum Brethren. His mother even accused him of causing his father's death. He knows he isn't welcome.

However, he is needed to head up a murder investigation. The call comes that a body was found stabbed on the beach. Venn's team, Ross May and Jen Rafferty, are already at the scene when he arrives. Although they don't have an immediate identification of the victim, a piece of paper sends them to a house shared by two women. And, both women have a connection to the Woodyard Centre; an arts centre, cafe, theatre and studio space, along with a day meeting place for adults with learning disabilities. The entire centre is managed by Matthew's husband, Jonathan.

As Matthew's team investigates, clues and stories continue to send them back to Woodyard Centre. Venn hesitates, wondering if he should take himself off the case. Then a young woman disappears, a vulnerable woman with Down Syndrome, the daughter of a member of the Brethren. And, she was taken when she left Woodyard. Once again, the mess involves the Centre, the Brethren, and people of Matthew's past.

Halfway through The Long Call, I realized Ann Cleeves' best-known protagonists, Jimmy Perez, Vera Stanhope, and Matthew Venn, are all troubled people. Perhaps their past and their social awkwardness gives them a vulnerability, and, in some cases, an empathy for the lost souls whose deaths and disappearance they investigate. The books about these characters are not always easy to read. They're seldom alleviated by humor. But, they're always worth reading.

I usually don't mention the title of a book, but I appreciate it when the author hits on it early on. It means I'm not looking for the title while I read, wondering what the title means, and how it connects to the story. For me, The Long Call symbolizes Matthew Venn, the murder victim, the missing women, even Jen Rafferty, Venn's detective sergeant. Matthew notes the cry of the herring gull is called "the long call". It's "the cry that always sounded to him like an inarticulate howl of pain". Ann Cleeves' books strike me as "an inarticulate howl of pain".

Ann Cleeves' website is www.anncleeves.com

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves. Minotaur Books, 2019. ISBN 9781250204448 (hardcover), 384p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book with no promises I would review it.


Jeff Meyerson said...

It's interesting to me. As you talked about the plot, I thought - hmm, if you moved it to the Northeast, it could be a Vera Stanhope book in many ways. You're right about them being damaged characters. I've always been interested in that part of the country. In all our trips to England, we were only in Devon once and never in Cornwall.

Kay said...

I agree that books by Cleeves have damaged protagonists and their backstory always assists them in working toward finding justice and resolution for the victims. I also note that her books contain quite poetic and interesting things about birds. I know that birds have played a big part in the lives of Ann and her husband. Can't wait to read this one.

Jeff Meyerson said...

re Kay's comment: People know the Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez series, but not everyone knows that Ann Cleeves's first series was about birdwatchers George and Molly Palmer-Jones.

Lesa said...

Jeff and Kay, I always appreciate the knowledge and background you provide with your comments. Thank you. And, Jeff? I knew she wrote earlier books. I didn't know the protagonists were bird watchers, or know about the connection to Ann and her husband.