Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of THE LONG CALL by Ann Cleeves from Macmillan in an exchange for an honest review.
The first book I read by Cleeves was the fifth book in her Shetland series, which is not the way to start that series. But eventually because people I knew loved Vera, I started to watch it, and then watched Shetland. So, when an opportunity came to get in on a new series, I grabbed it.
Matthew Venn is not your normal brooding British detective. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t have problems, but those problems are almost common place. You might never know someone whose significant other was killed by a serial killer or whose father stuffed birds, but you most likely met someone like Matthew. And not only Matthew, but someone like Jen and Ross – the two detectives who report to him. Jen is older than Ross and a single mother who is not burdened by guilt. Ross is younger and isn’t what he first appears to be.
The mystery centers on the finding of a body on a beach. Who is this man become the question and the rest of the novel, in addition, to solving that mystery, also presents and mediates on the question of appearances.
It isn’t just the dead body or the police themselves, but also the civilians who inhabit the novel. How clearly do we see those who inhabit the same space as us, who share the same blood or family ties? In part the novel is about the connection between parents and children, and, thankfully, Cleeves does not use Jen in the most trope filled, obvious way – Jen is not conflicted about her children versus her job. Her worries in that regard are, well, not at of the ordinary and there is no real angst there. It is a refreshing change considering how many times we have seen the women police officer dealing with restatement at home – far more than the opposite way. No, the look at parents and children are, primary, with the civilians, in particular the parents of Christine and Lucy as well as with Caroline and her father. In fact, the conversation that occurs roughly mid-way in the book between Caroline and her father is one of the best conversations between father and daughter I have ever read in fiction. The pauses, the struggle of finding the words that need to be said is perfectly portrayed.
The characters of both Christine and Lucy, two young women with Down’s Syndrome, are well done. There is a tension between the women who are testing boundaries and their parents who belong to a totally different generation. It has to with independence and how much one is capable of. I love how Cleeves crafted Lucy and Maurice. While we may disagree with Maurice’s view of his daughter, we know that he loves her.
In all, this new British mystery starts a season that I look forward to returning to when the second book comes out.