All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

on October 7, 2019

The Long Call (Two Rivers #1)
Ann Cleeves
Pan Macmillan
2019, 384p
Copy courtesy Pan Macmillan AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

The Long Call is the captivating first novel in a brand new series from Sunday Times bestseller and creator of Vera and Shetland, Ann Cleeves.

In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too.

Now he’s back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region; a complex place not quite as idyllic as tourists suppose.

A body has been found on the beach near to Matthew’s new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

Finding the killer is Venn’s only focus, and his team’s investigation will take him straight back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there.

Okay so this is part of why I love being a book blogger. I have heard of Ann Cleeves before and she’s had not one but two of her series’ made into TV shows. I’ve even seen an episode or two of Shetland in my time. But I’ve never read her before. I don’t know why but I thought she wrote historical fiction for some reason. Maybe it’s the name. Anyway I was sent this book, her latest, which is the first in a brand new series for review. I thought it would be a great opportunity to try her and I really liked the sound of the premise.

And I loved this. I was hooked from the very first page. I love Matthew, who we get all these little snippets about but a lot of the putting together has to be done by the reader to flesh him and his life out. In the opening scene he’s watching the funeral of his father from afar, because he is estranged from his family. He turned his back on their small Brethren church which means that he is ex-communicated, basically invisible. He has barely seen his parents or spoken to them in decades, even though he now lives just a few miles away, having transferred back close to the area he grew up in. A Detective Inspector, Matthew is called away from watching the funeral because a body has been discovered on a beach. Thought to be accidental, the stab wound discovered when the body is turned over suggests otherwise.

Matthew is thrown headlong into the investigation, first trying to identify the man and then discovering how and why he came to be murdered on a beach. Every little bit of information they discover just seems to lead to more questions. It leads him to a place he’s quite familiar with and the investigation comes close to home for Matthew in more ways than one. Along the way we meet two of Matthew’s co-workers, Jen a feisty female detective single mother who escaped an abusive marriage and Ross, a young go-getter who rubs people the wrong way but is motivated to get the job done. I thought the team, despite their teething issues as this seems to be their first homicide together, did work together really well. Even though there’s three of them, which can sometimes lead to a strange dynamic or two paired up and one left out, they work in differing pairs on different aspects of the case as it begins to get more and more complicated. I really enjoyed the character of Jen, who doesn’t look like a cop, which is something she gets a bit of a kick out of. She likes seeing people make an impression of her and dismiss her or file her away into a box and then turning their thoughts upside down. We get a bit of a look into her life as a single mother of two teens, who are often left to their own devices now that they are old enough as the job takes up a lot of her time. Jen has quite a bit of guilt about this and she does try to take the time to check in with them as much as she can, have a meal, etc. Jen is loyal to Matthew, even in his newbie status and she’s quick to pull up Ross for behaviour she feels might be disloyal.

Matthew’s background is really interesting, his strict religious upbringing in a small sect that he then turned his back on. He’s now married but his choice of partner would only serve to alienate his family even further. When the investigation takes a bit of a turn, Matthew is called home, which forces his mother to interact with him because they need his help. I think that there’s a good chance for this relationship between the two of them to be really explored in future novels. I also really enjoyed the relationship he has with his partner. The two of them are quite different and I think Matthew feels a bit bemused sometimes about how they ended up together. And that he considers himself a bit boring and plain in comparison but they do seem to really just ‘work’ as a partnership and I spent quite a lot of the book hoping that it wouldn’t turn out badly for Matthew.

This was everything I really enjoy about a crime series – a good beginning that introduces the core characters and sets up future interactions, a tight and interesting mystery that went in some unexpected directions and provided some surprises as well as good suspense and an a bit of that atmosphere. I ended up reading this in one sitting, even taking it with my to my younger son’s swimming lesson and reading it all through that because I did not want to put it down. I can’t wait for the next one now.


Book #155 of 2019

2 responses to “Review: The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

  1. Brilliant review!!! And omg up to book 155 of the year. That’s incredible <3333

  2. […] The Long Call by Ann Cleeves. This is the first book I’ve ever read by Ann Cleeves, although she’s a prolific writer with several series’ even having been adapted for television. This is the first in a brand new series featuring a detective who fled his overly religious family some 20 years ago. He’s now working in his home town although his rejection of his family’s religious lifestyle means he’s basically invisible to them (as does his choice of partner). This was good and I am eagerly awaiting the next one. My review. […]

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