The Long Call (2019) by Ann Cleeves

North Devon, and a man lies dead on the beach, stabbed through the neck. Detective Inspector Matthew Venn is called from his father’s funeral to investigate, but things soon ending up much closer to home.

The Woodyard is a local community centre, run by Matthew’s husband, where various people in need come to work and socialise. The victim, Simon Walden, had been working in the kitchen, and had struck up a friendship with Lucy, a girl with Down’s Syndrome. But Walden, it seems, may have had ulterior motives for that friendship. As Venn and his team probe deeper, it seems that both Matthew’s present and his past, as a member of the religious sect, the Brethren, have combined to produce an horrific crime and its consequences.

Over the years, Ann Cleeves has produced four detective series, with the Vera Stanhope and Shetland bringing her much deserved success (although the early series are worth checking out too). With The Long Call, she has launched a new series, which looks to me like it has a lot of potential.

Venn is a likeable central character (and no, he doesn’t solve crimes by using diagrams) and while his team are a little by the book, on the surface at least, it looks to me as if there is plenty of room for them to develop over the series.

The mystery is an engrossing one, with a good number of suspects that all have their roles to play in the complex web that is the central plot. The pacing is excellent with events accelerating as the book progresses, with the final chapters leading to some very dark places and some genuine surprises being revealed. There’s one aspect of the case that I thought was… well, obvious, but was overlooked by the police characters, leading to what I thought should have been an avoidable incident.

Overall, a strong debut for this series, a tale that is unafraid to tackle some serious plot elements, and overall a very satisfying read.

The Long Call was released in hardback and ebook on 5th September. Many thanks for the review copy.

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