EXCERPT: She could see the man now, and moved slowly towards him, frightened already of what she might find. He’d have responded to her shout, jumped to his feet, called out a greeting in return. Put his arms around her. And she was scared because she still had an image of her father, lying on her studio floor in a pool of blood.
There was blood here too, and a shard of glass, her glass, not green this time, but blue, was sticking in his neck. A blue vase had been shattered here – she remembered making it and giving it to Frank Ley as a present – and there were pieces of glass scattered across the bench, reflecting the single beam of the sun. Blood had spattered across the bench and as far as the nearest wall. She pulled her gaze back to the pieces of glass, which looked almost decorative in the shaft of sunlight, and wondered how they had got here – anything rather than look at (X), who was still and white, stark against the red pool of blood, already dried and dark in the heat – and was deciding she should phone 999 when there was a sound outside. The screaming of sirens and the thumping of boots, loud and rhythmic as soldiers’ drums, on the uneven concrete, and half a dozen police officers ran in through the doors, yelling for her to get on her knees and put her hands on her head.
ABOUT ‘THE HERON’S CRY’: North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder–Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.
Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.
Then another body is found–killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.
MY THOUGHTS: It has been said that Ann Cleeves is a master of her craft, and I am not going to disagree. She paints fluent pictures of her characters and their environs, drawing the reader into their dramas.
Matthew, despite his rank and his success in his role still suffers, at times, from a lack of confidence. He is logical and orderly, and can come across as cold and unfeeling, in direct contrast to his more spontaneous and warm-hearted husband Jonathan. This difference in their natures creates a few problems in their relationship in The Heron’s Cry. Matthew is also ambivalent in his feelings about Ross May,a young man with great potential, but who is Chief Superintendent Oldham’s prodigy and, often, his ear to the ground.
I like that we learn significantly more about Ross May and his wife Mel in The Heron’s Cry. He came across as quite an unlikable character in the first book of the series, but in this, we see a lot of growth and he begins to shine, although Matthew continues to be wary of him and gives Jen Rafferty a lot of the responsibility that Ross thinks is his due.
The plot is superb, encompassing murders that appear to have no obvious motive, but are linked by method and weapon. This is not a fast paced crime novel, but one that is very much character driven. Several of the characters from The Long Call appear again – I was so pleased to see Lucy and her dad back – along several new characters.
If you are looking for a thriller, you’re in the wrong place. But if you enjoy a well crafted murder mystery, I can wholeheartedly recommend The Heron’s Cry. And, while it is possible to read this as a stand-alone, you will miss out on vital information about relationships and character development.
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THE AUTHOR: THE AUTHOR: Ann grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs – child care officer, women’s refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard – before going back to college and training to be a probation officer.
While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person’s not heavily into birds – and Ann isn’t – there’s not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing. Her first series of crime novels features the elderly naturalist, George Palmer-Jones. A couple of these books are seriously dreadful.
In 1987 Tim, Ann and their two daughters moved to Northumberland and the north east provides the inspiration for many of her subsequent titles. The girls have both taken up with Geordie lads. In the autumn of 2006, Ann and Tim finally achieved their ambition of moving back to the North East.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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