The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves
Detective Matthew Venn is a careful, thoughtful man. When he is called in to investigate the sudden death of a man in the informal rural home of a group of artists, he is a little thrown by the whole set up. His husband Jonathan would be far more at home amidst glassblowers and other craft workers, but he is not in the police and Matthew has Jen and Ross to help him officially. The carefully staged murder of a doctor is unexpected, especially when it seems that his daughter Eve was meant to discover the killing with a piece of her handblown glass as the weapon. As the investigation proceeds Matthew must struggle to keep his own feelings in check in the face of irregular lifestyles, lies and deceptions before another person dies, and people’s real motives are revealed.
This is a novel that captures the reader’s interest immediately and maintains it throughout. The plot is satisfyingly complex and winding, the setting (with fictional additions) is beautifully drawn, and the characters are memorable in their depth. Ranging from Jen whose realism and compassion power her work in dealing with the people and the complexities of the communities involved to the financial genius Francis Ley, whose loneliness has created the establishment of the big house, farm and workshops at Westacombe in North Devon, the characters have real depth. Matthew’s background of a strict religious community and his remaining propensity for feeling guilt is in sharp contrast with Jonathan’s intuitive and creative ability with people, a contrast which leads to both positive and negative outcomes for their relationship when a case comes dangerously close to home. I was delighted to have the opportunity to read and review this brilliantly written and immersive book, where mystery, risk and danger combine in an innocent seeming setting.
Jen first encounters the victim in a social setting when she is not at her most perceptive. Dr. Nigel Yeo was a skilled doctor working in a local hospital who had begun working with a Patients support group in order to have more time with his wife. Following her death, he had been working with his daughter Eve in her growing glass making studio. When he approached Jen at a party, he seemed to be trying to ask her to help with a case which he had become involved in. As the investigation into who could have possibly had a motive to murder a seemingly well-loved man proceeds, other people and situations become entangled. Matthew is aware that he is in danger of letting his own difficulties get in the way of a solution, and Jen and Ross must think laterally to come up with a complete picture of why a particular artist’s work is becoming a weapon.
This is a murder mystery story which regards the victims and potential witnesses as real people who are struggling to understand what is happening in a relatively small community. The pace is well judged to allow space for thought but never drags. There is an excellent understanding of the pressures of contemporary policing; but this novel goes far beyond being a police procedural. This book is the second in a series but definitely works as a standalone, which is how I read it. This is a vibrant and extremely readable novel which I greatly enjoyed. I recommend it to Cleeves’ fans and in complete confidence that it will make many new ones!