I’ve just finished reading Ann Cleeve’s latest novel, “The Long Call”, the first in a series which will be called “Two Rivers”, set not in the northeast of England or on the Shetland Isles, but in Devon, not that far from where we live in Somerset. I mention the locations because settings are very much part of Ann’s books. It’s something I don’t think I’m very good at – I’m more character and action driven I know, so I do try really hard to write more about the surroundings where everything happens. Ann is able to do this seemingly effortlessly. Whether it’s countryside, the sea shore, towns or villages, Ann really creates a vivid image.
In her previous series ‘Vera’ and ‘Shetland’ she has very strong and idiosyncratic main characters (and lesser characters too) If you have seen the TV series of these characters, forget them when it comes to reading the books because for some reason the producers have changed aspects of them. For example, in the books Jimmy Perez is dark haired and dark-eyed clearly showing his distant Spanish ancestry, and very visibly different from the blond, blue-eyed descendants of the Vikings who live on the islands. He not only looks different, but he is different, always an outsider – useful if you’re a detective trying to solve a murder! Douglas Henshall who plays the part of Perez is gorgeous to look at – but he’s blond not dark, and never has that separateness which the book character has. Vera is eccentric and odd, but she’s also steely and determined; Brenda Blethyn who plays her is great actress, but her portrayal of DCI Vera Stanhope is ridiculously far away from the character in the novel.
The main detective in ‘The Long Call’ is also an outsider – he was brought up in a religious community, and in a way it’s no surprise this has a connection with the murder that DCI Matt Venn investigates. Matt lives with his husband in a beautiful but isolated cottage near the sea – being gay and married is also something which sets him apart from others in this very rural setting – even in the twenty-first century. It’s impossible to imagine what someone who has never read of Ann’s books before would think of the characters coming to this novel, but to me, Matt’s character didn’t really engage… it felt a little contrived. His husband Jonathan, who also features in the plot as he manages an art and community centre round which events key happen, doesn’t come alive to me, I just don’t feel he’s real – as I do with the various characters in Vera and Shetland – even minor characters.
The plot is ingenious, although I did guess part of the mystery – but I do read a lot of crime novels so that’s not surprising – and I liked the fact that the characters who were involved were very ordinary and believable, but I just felt it lacked pace… I will be interested to hear what others say about it, and whether I’m being hyper-critical. As I said – if I’d not read the other series, would I have engaged more – or would I have engaged less? Would I want to read further novels in the series? I have read the other books by Ann (and some of her other mystery series) and will definitely buy whatever she presents to us next!
Here is a link to her site: