The Long Call
By Ann Cleeves
Sunday Times bestselling author of the Shetland and Vera Stanhope series, Ann Cleeves returns with the first in a brand new series set in North Devon and featuring Detective Matthew Venn. In this rural idyll, where two rivers meet, crime is always there waiting to rise from the water.Tweet
I have read a lot of thrillers in my time and this is up there with the best of them. With flawed, relatable characters that feel like real anti-heroes rather than impossible heroes, and a smoothly meandering narrative that kept me guessing to within a few pages of the big reveal. Even then, the ending was utterly plausible without being predictable. This was a satisfying read that left me missing the characters and wanting to read more by Ann Cleeves. Shetland or Vera will have to fill the void until the next in the series. I can’t wait!
By E Hayward
Our book group found this a really satisfying read and we're looking forward to the next book in this new series by Ann Cleeves.
The protagonist, DI Matthew Venn has recently returned to live on the North Devon coast with his husband, Jonathan, who runs a local arts and community centre. Venn left the area many years before, abandoning the religious community in which he grew up and breaking with his family. He’s trying to settle into a new job and build a new life back in North Devon when a body is discovered on the beach near his home.
It takes a while to identify the victim and as the case progresses the dead man is found to have had connections to the centre which Jonathan manages, and even Venn’s family. The case is complex and Venn has to dig deep into the community and the lives of people he knew when he was growing up. Added to the pressure of running his first major case in his new job, dark secrets must be unravelled – not without danger to Venn himself.
It must be difficult for an author to shut down a successful series and start another. But this one is promising because, as always, Cleeves’s characters are believable and human. As you read, you can see them in your mind’s eye and feel you understand what makes them tick. Venn is full of insecurities – professional and personal – and he sometimes seems too vulnerable to be a senior policeman. But he’s determined and dogged, and worries away at clues until he’s resolved them. Slowly but surely, he picks away at the case until everything is revealed.
A few of our group said that when they’d started this book, they’d wondered if Cleeves was just trying to be woke by making the protagonist gay, and married. But it didn’t take them long to change their minds because Venn is written as a strong, solid character and although his homosexuality is mentioned often, it seemed irrelevant.
This is, of course, the first in a new series, so we’re bound to find out more about Matthew (and Jonathan) over time. Some people thought they were an odd couple, Matthew being uptight and nervy, and Jonathan almost too nice and good to be true. But both of them have interesting backstories and who knows how these could be explored in new plots? There are other characters, like Venn’s police colleagues, which will no doubt be developed in later books as well.
You wouldn't classify any of Ann Cleeves's books as 'thrillers'. They're a gentle read but they do get under your skin and they're hard to put down. The lowest rating from our group was one 3-Star; the rest of us gave The Long Call 4 or more stars. And, as I said, we're all looking forward to the next book in the series. You can't say fairer than that!
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
Reviews by 4 members of Bibliobelles here but another 3 members will post individually (Reading Group of StoneRangers, Leytonstone East London WI)
(Reading group set of books in exchange for honest reviews.)
1) Review by Gail Smart
What I particularly appreciated in this book is the way that the back stories of the investigating characters were gradually introduced and woven into the narrative.
The story had a good pace and there was no feeling of a rushed ending or the writer having kept back vital information a la Agatha Christie.
As in the 'Shetland' and 'Vera' series there is a great sense of place and landscape. The main character is also slightly aloof from colleagues, like Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez. This makes for an interesting team dynamic which I hope Ann Cleeves develops into another series.
2) Review Review by Jill Hasler
I read this detective novel as part of the book group I’ve joined recently. Although not my preferred genre as one of my reasons for joining the group was to extend the range of books I read felt I should follow through and read it.
I thought it is a well-constructed page turner, it was a quick and easy read. There is a good plot line which encouraged me to read it to the conclusion.
The characters, including the police, developed as the story unfolded. With some of the minor characters, e.g. Ross a junior detective, I’d have liked to know more. Sometimes there were tantalizing glimpses rather than a full characterization. On reflection I’m not wholly convinced by some aspects e.g. the relationship between Caroline and the curate and her reactions to his actions. However given my inexperience of this genre I had little to compare it with.
3) Review by Carmela
I found the book very enjoyable. The new character of Matthew is a complex person without the ubiquitous macho personality. It was a relief that he isn't always battling the authorities and can actually hold down a loving relationship at home. The landscape is also beautiful. I liked his colleague Jen, who I hope carries on in what looks like the beginning of a series. I like the way Ross was seen as very unsympathetic but getting to know him is intriguing. Overall I think this book is to be recommended to all.
4) Review by Kathy Livingstone
Never having read any of Ann Cleeves work, and only knowing of it through the TV adaptations of Vera and Shetland, I was excited to be given a copy of this first novel in her new series (The Two Rivers). I didn’t take to Detective Matthew Venn from the outset. He came across to me as short-tempered, judgmental and insular. However, there were also early hints at a different temperament lurking within that unattractive first impression which quickly gathered strength as the plot unfolded.
The opening chapters create a real sense of isolation, particularly among the ageing and vulnerable members of the population, which is fully reinforced by Venn’s bus journey between police station and locations pertinent to enquiries. It almost screams WI resolution on the need for better country bus services.
Like a painter adding new brushstrokes to a scene which, with each brushstroke, imperceptibly shifts our perception, Cleeves builds one picture of a character which, as the investigation unfolds, becomes changed by a cumulation of views and insights from different perspectives. It’s Cleeves’ ability to constantly introduce characters in one light and then gradually change our perception of them so that they become genuine, complex, human creatures that I particularly enjoy. It feels something of a personal mantra belonging the Cleeves that helps her develop and unfold the story line. One character in this novel almost explicitly says don’t be too quick to judge a book by its cover. I guess that is at the heart of the crime mystery genre.
I can imagine this book being serialised on television, possibly of 8 episodes, like the first Broadchurch series. Can’t wait to see who’d be cast as the lead characters but I hope Cleeves is already working on more Detective Venn novels which will give us a good run of TV series as a spin off. How could I bear to watch it, knowing the ending? As with the book, it would mainly be about enjoying the subtle changes in characters as achieved by the actors’ performances. Critical casting. I’m sure Ann Cleeves would need to feel the right people were chosen to achieve on screen what she achieves on paper.
I’m sure also there are sufficient cliff-hanger moments for it to become a series you waited with bated breath to see the next episode, and that final episode would be a cracking rollercoaster of a ride.