“The Long Call” by Ann Cleeves introduces Matthew Venn of the Devon Police and his husband Jonathan. A body has been found on the English seacoast beach at Crow Point, and Venn is called to investigate. This is not only the story of a crime, but also of Venn, the police officer who must solve it.
Cleeves unveils the story of a whole village, its culture and ambiance, its surrounding geography, and most of all its citizens. The village is defined by its people — their back-stories, their relationships, and their interactions. One man upsets the tranquility, security, and purpose of the villagers, the dead man found on their beach. They all know him, but they know little about him.
Cleeves creates an interesting and diverse cast of characters encompassing those who are creative, focused, disabled, and conventional. They are a complex and troubled collection, but they are genuinely concerned about each other, usually. They are all respectable people, but some of them have things to hide; some have past secrets that come back to haunt them, and of course, one of them is a murderer.
Details unfold at a slow but steady pace as Venn conducts his investigation. He finds that the people are friendly but not always helpful. Residents are confronted with emotionally intense and unthinkable situations, both real and imagined, and yet as Venn searches for evidence, people seem to be hindering the investigation. Corruption and the desire for power have disrupted tranquil village life. Entitled people are worried about their own reputations, and conspiracy may have stripped them of any sense of humanity.
“The Long Call” is the inaugural book in the new “Two Rivers” series, and I was given a review copy from Ann Cleeves and Minotaur Books. It has all the ingredients that readers love in Cleeves’ work, compelling characters with complex backstories, unlikely culprits with unusual motivations, and a timely resolution with just a touch of creepy but little actual blood or gore. Oh yes, and the wonderful English countryside. I cannot wait for the next book.