White Nights by Ann Cleeves

28th November 2021.

The second novel in the Shetland series sees local inspector, Jimmy Perez, at an art gallery when a stranger bursts into tears and seems to have lost his memory. The following day, he’s found hanging in a fisherman’s hut.

It’s murder, not suicide, and restless DI Taylor is called in from the mainland to assist in the investigation. While the locals seem mystified by the death, Jimmy keeps digging away, causing more unrest. A second murder leads him to uncover secrets, connections with the past and possible motives for the killings.

It’s a gentle, thoughtful novel that’s focused as much on the key characters and their lives as the investigation. The bleakness and remoteness of Shetland is both harsh and beautiful as it plays its part in the crime. The islands also shape the lives of the people who live there, and their relationships.

Beautifully written and developed, this is another story of creeping tension, suspense and intrigue as the ordinary lives of the inhabitants are peeled back to reveal the tangled emotions and desires that lay beneath.

Description

When the sun never sets it brings to light deadly secrets

On Shetland the launch of an exhibition at The Herring House art gallery is disturbed by a stranger who bursts into tears, then claims not to remember who he is or where he comes from. The next day Detective Jimmy Perez finds his body in a fisherman’s hut.

Initially it seems to be a straightforward case of suicide, yet this is no desperate act and is instead the work of a cold and calculating killer. As Perez investigates, he finds himself mired in the hidden secrets of a small community. Then another body is found.

Perez knows he must find the killer before another death occurs. But it is midsummer, an unsettling time when the sun never really sets in Shetland and nothing is quite as it seems . .

White Nights by Ann Cleeves

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

16th November 2021.

The first novel in the Shetland series introduces Jimmy Perez, a measured, reassuring detective, who understands the community he lives in. As someone who’s come from Fair Isle, he’s still a bit of an outsider, but like all the main characters in the novel, the author makes sure you get to know him well.

It’s a beautifully crafted story that follows the murder of Catherine Ross, a self-assured English girl who didn’t care what others thought of her. One morning, neighbour Fran, finds Catherine’s body in the snow. Fran later finds the body of Catriona after a landslip in the same area. Catriona disappeared eight years ago, but her body was never found.

The murder of Catherine stirs up memories of Catriona and quiet, simple Magnus who lives nearby. Though never arrested or charged, locals believe he killed Catriona. Perez wants to keep an open mind, especially when a team of detectives is sent over from the mainland to assist.

Slowly, piece by piece, the investigation digs into Catherine’s life and the past. You see how all the key players in the community are affected by the murders. The characters are vividly portrayed and each has a story to tell and a motive that makes them a suspect. The setting and its effect on the locals is equally well portrayed.

The suspense and tension builds towards an unexpected climax when more of Catherine’s life and goals are unearthed. When Perez confronts the killer, everything fits and you wonder how you didn’t spot it before.

This is storytelling at its finest and I’m already looking forward to the second book in the series.

Description

A remote community with a killer in their midst . . .

On New Year’s Day Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter’s eye is drawn to a vivid splash of colour on the white ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance . . .

The body is found close to the home of a lonely outcast and local suspicion falls firmly on him. But when Inspector Jimmy Perez insists on broadening the search for suspects, a veil of distrust and fear is thrown over the entire community. As the case develops Perez finds himself peering deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves

25th May 2021.

This is another moody, complex murder mystery in the Vera Stanhope series. She seems to be at her best when she had few or no leads to follow.

This time it’s her sergeant, Joe Ashworth, who finds a woman stabbed on the metro in Newcastle. She’s soon identified and Vera’s in Harbour Street, where the woman lived in an attic flat above a guest house. It’s a rundown neighbourhood where people seem to live most of their lives. Vera soon discovers that the victim was well-loved and respected. She kept to herself and no one can think of a reason why anyone would kill her.

With no obvious motive, no real suspects and little to go on, it’s a difficult investigation. Then another woman is murdered and Vera makes connections. She’s soon on the right path for an ending I didn’t see coming.

The pace is measured and evocative. The atmosphere is dark and unsettling. Everyone’s a suspect while the team struggles to find a motive for the murders. But the team keep chipping away, probing, searching, uncovering secrets, flushing out small nuggets of information and anomalies that finally make sense to Vera.

It’s another absorbing and riveting read where Vera dominates proceedings, revealing more about herself and her past, showing a sharp, often wicked humour that brings lighter moments to the story. It’s all blended together with supreme skill for another excellent investigation for the larger than life detective.

Description

A silent community. A murderer among them . . .

As the snow falls in Newcastle, Detective Joe Ashworth and his daughter Jessie travel home on the busy Metro. When the train stops unexpectedly due to bad weather, Jessie notices that one woman doesn’t leave and when trying to wake her they find that the passenger has been fatally stabbed.

With no witnesses DI Vera Stanhope looks into the victim’s past and discovers she lived for years on Harbour Street, in a rundown Northumberland fishing town. As she questions the local residents Vera begins to suspect they know more than they are letting on, and the killer is hiding in their midst.

Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves

The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves

19th May 2021.

In this fifth outing for Vera Stanhope, the murder’s a little too close to home for comfort. Her neighbour, Joanna, is at a writers’ conference. An esteemed critic lies dead, fatally stabbed, and she’s found with a knife in her hand.

It’s a lovely idea for a crime writer to have a murder at a writers’ conference about crime fiction. The opportunity to poke fun at writers and writing is irresistible. The murder and investigation is pure Vera. She’s always excited by murder, happy to speculate, and she prefers talking to suspects and scrutinising them to forensics.

This is a locked room murder with plenty of suspects among the conference attendees. Many have motives to kill the critic, who was not well-liked by many of the people there. But it takes a second murder to give Vera the traction she needs to home in on the killer. After all the struggles to work out what happened, she seems to work out the identity of the killer and motive in double quick time, making the climax feel a little abrupt.

Apart from this minor quibble, this was another brilliantly observed and written murder mystery with Vera on top form and the tensions within her close team adding to the enjoyment.

I’m already looking forward to the sixth in the series.

Description

Sometimes crime strikes too close to home . . .

DI Vera Stanhope is not one to make friends easily, but her neighbours keep her well-supplied in homebrew and conversation. But when one of them goes missing, her path leads her to more than a missing friend . . .

Vera tracks the young woman down to the Writer’s House, a country retreat for aspiring authors. Things get complicated when a body is discovered and Vera’s neighbour is found with a knife in her hand. Calling in the team, Vera knows that she should hand the case over. She’s too close to the main suspect. But the investigation is too tempting and she’s never been one to follow the rules. Vera must find a killer who has taken murder off the page and is making it real . .

The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

9th April 2021.

If you like your crime fiction to be as much about the characters as the plot, then the Vera Stanhope series should fit the bill. From the moment you read the first page, you know you’re in the company of an unconventional, intriguing and brilliant detective, whose excesses are balanced by her determination and vivid insights into human behaviour, relationships and the secrets people hide.

Vera’s excited by murder – the more complicated the better. And this one’s another complex investigation with families at its core. It begins with Vera in a health club – imagine what her team will say when they find out. She’ll find out sooner than she thinks when she discovers a body in the steam room.

Jenny Lister, a social worker specialising in the safety of children, has been strangled. Social workers are not popular people at the best of times, but there’s no obvious reason for her murder. But once the team start digging, they find suspects and motives in the small village where she lived.

While the pace of the enquiry and story is gentle, it’s never anything short of fascinating as Vera digs into the lives of the suspects, slowly building the picture she needs to solve the case.

The dynamics in her team continue to develop and provide plenty of humour and insight. At the core of the team is the relationship between Vera and Joe, her detective sergeant. While there are elements of yin and yang, they work well together and understand each other. Newcomer Holly is keen to impress, but has a lot to learn. Charlie is the bloodhound of the team, dogged and meticulous, the one with the contacts.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a huge fan of this series and its author.

Description

No murder is ever simple . . .

When DI Vera Stanhope finds the body of a woman in the sauna room of her local gym, at first, she thinks it is a death from natural causes. But then Vera spots ligature marks around the victim’s throat and has another murder case on her hands.

The victim is Jenny Lister, who was an experienced social worker, but her neighbours are quick to inform Vera about Jenny’s involvement in a notorious case. A young child tragically died and a member of Jenny’s team was subsequently fired and vilified by the media.

As Vera tries to pry information from the secretive community another body is found, and Vera finds herself in a race against time to stop the killer.

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves

16th March 2021.

Ann Cleeves is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, especially for the Vera Stanhope series. I love the gentle pace, the way she gets inside the minds of the characters, and the old style police detective who favours observation, information and deduction to solve crimes.

In this second outing for Vera, she’s asked to review a murder enquiry conducted by a neighbouring police force. Jeanie Long, the woman convicted of killing Abigail Mantel ten years ago committed suicide in prison, still protesting her innocence. A new witness has come forward to establish Jeanie’s innocence.

In the small village of Elvet, the revelations cause shock waves. The real killer is still at large. With plenty of suspects, secrets and motives, the atmosphere becomes almost claustrophobic as the tension builds towards breaking point. The former police officers, who conducted the original investigation, are no match for Vera Stanhope and her gentle but incisive approach.

Then another murder devastates the locals.

The settings, people and the investigation are beautifully and meticulously described and brought to life as Vera ferrets away, bringing her own unique brand of investigation and humour to the proceedings as she homes in on the killer.

The quality of the writing and characterisation are first rate, engaging the reader from the first paragraph to the last. With each book, you learn more about Vera and what makes her the formidable detective she is.

Description

Ten years after Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen-year-old Abigail Mantel, disturbing new evidence proving her innocence emerges in the East Yorkshire village of Elvet. Abigail s killer is still at large.

For Emma Bennett, the revelation brings back haunting memories of her vibrant best friend and of the fearful winter s day when she had discovered her body lying cold in a ditch.

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope makes fresh inquiries, and the villagers are hauled back to a time they would rather forget. Tensions begin to mount, but are people afraid of the killer, or of their own guilty pasts?

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves

9th March 2021.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Vera Stanhope series. I love the intricate plots, the depth and development of the main characters, especially Joe and Holly and the sheer tour de force that is Vera.

It’s all in evidence in this story, which revolves around an old murder that’s a little close to home due to the involvement of Vera’s father, Hector. He was one of four friends, involved in illegal activities. Disgraced former police officer John Brace is the second. Now languishing in prison, he’s prepared to reveal details of a third friend, missing presumed dead. But Brace wants Vera to help his daughter and grandchildren in return.

Only there are two bodies, not one, dumped in a culvert on the Northumbrian coast. Who is the second victim? Was she killed at the same time as the man? And who is the mysterious fourth friend, known only as the Prof?

As the investigation progresses, it’s clear that the victims had links to the Seagull, a former exclusive club on the Northumbrian coast.

It’s another complex case with plenty of twists and turns as Vera tries to make sense of the many threads until finally she weaves them together, leading to an exciting conclusion with a surprise ending.

If you like character driven crime fiction, populated by believable characters you will root for, and plots that are as intricate as they are original, then you should try this series.

Description

When prison inmate and former police officer John Brace says he’s willing to give up information about a long-dead wheeler dealer in return for protection for his family, Vera knows that she has to look into his claims.

But opening up this cold case strikes much closer to home than Vera anticipates as her investigation takes her back in time to The Seagull, a once decadent and now derelict nightclub where her deceased father and his friends used to congregate.

As Vera’s past collides dangerously with the present, she will have to confront her unwanted memories and face the possibility that her father was involved in what happened. The truth is about to come out but is Vera ready for what it will reveal?

The Seagull by Ann Cleeves

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves

11th February 2021.

Like so many readers, I love Vera Stanhope. She’s distinctive, original, fascinating and about as unique a detective as you could meet. All of which makes her irresistible. Her work as a detective inspector is her life and her passion. With grit, determination, a wry sense of humour and a canny understanding of humour nature, she’s an unstoppable force when she’s on the hunt for a killer.

The relationships within her team, especially Joe and Holly, add an extra depth and dimension to the books and allow the reader to see how her colleagues view her. While they may question her methods and idiosyncrasies at times, they know she’s fearless, loyal, and usually right.

In this story, Vera’s battling a snow blizzard on her way to her house in the countryside. Temporarily lost and straying from her usual route, she chances upon an abandoned car with a baby, strapped into the back seat. The driver’s door is open and it isn’t long before Vera discovers the body of a young woman in the snow.

While this is no ordinary murder, the location is close to Brockburn, the Stanhope Ancestral home – the family she’s estranged from thanks to her father being the black sheep. Not only must Vera try to make sense of the murder, she’s forced to deal with relatives she has little in common with, along with their tenants, who make up the small community.

Is one of them a killer? Why was the victim on Stanhope land? Why did she abandon her baby in the car?

It’s a fascinating and painstaking investigation. Vera peels back the layers, revealing secrets, liaisons and plenty of suspects and motives. Holly and Joe also have their moments as they help Vera make her way through the mist (literally) to an exciting, breath taking climax.

Fast and furious it’s not, but this is a beautifully crafted murder mystery that’s absorbing, compelling and satisfying. It will stay long in the mind and make you want to read more.

Description

The darkest nights can hide the deadliest secrets . . .

Driving home during a swirling blizzard, Vera Stanhope’s only thought is to get there quickly.

But with the snow driving down heavily, she becomes disorientated and loses her way, eventually stumbling on another car abandoned on the road. With the driver’s door open, Vera assumes the driver has sought shelter but is shocked to find a young toddler strapped in the back seat.

Afraid they will freeze, Vera takes the child and drives on, arriving at Brockburn, a run-down stately home she immediately recognizes as the house her father Hector grew up in.

Inside Brockburn a party is in full swing, with music and laughter to herald the coming Christmas. But outside in the snow, a young woman lies dead and Vera has a new case. Could she be the child’s mother and, if she is, what happened to her?

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves