Thrillers and mysteries seem to be my genre of late. They are what make me happy, they are what suck me in, they are what I give the highest ratings to.
And The Long Call, the first in a new series by Shetland author Ann Cleeves, is no exception.
This novel probably falls under the category of ‘detective focused’ mysteries because it is focused on Detective Matthew Venn as he solves the murder of a man found stabbed on a bleak beach in North Devon. The case is incredibly complex, incredibly human, and incredibly real. That makes the novel, to use the word in abundance, incredibly readable and incredibly good.
There are things that set this particular detective-focused murder mystery apart from others that I’ve read, namely that Detective Matthew Venn is married to a man named Jonathan (I finished the book a week ago and have forgotten his surname but it’s not important). I’m not the biggest reader of mysteries so I don’t know how novel a thing this is, but it was a first for me. Matthew grew up in an almost cult-ish sort of church wherein people debated the wearing of hats to services and definitely did not approve of lgbt+ lifestyles. Needless to say, the book beginning with Matthew lurking outside of his father’s funeral, where he is not welcome, is not surprising. Jonathan runs a community center that has absorbed a day center for adults with disabilities.
The center, called the Woodyard because it used to be a lumberyard, becomes the focus of the case. Ann Cleeves handles the implications of Matthew’s husband being in charge there very well, it should be pointed out, so there is no illusion of special treatment or impropriety.
The case, in summary and without spoiling anything, is that Simon, the man murdered on the beach, appeared to all as a broken man, struggling with alcoholism and guilt, who rented a room from the chairman of the Woodyard’s board’s daughter, and who volunteered as a cook at the center. No one knew him well, no one aside from Lucy. The thirty year old daughter of an eighty year old man, Lucy has Down Syndrome and attends the day center in the hopes that she can be aided in living on her own after her father’s death. Simon befriended Lucy and shared his secrets with her, secrets that later affect her. But Lucy is brave and strong.
Lucy is the key to solving the mystery, and Matthew treats her with a dignity and respect that are powerful and moving.
It’s an incredible story, the perfect start to a new series which I will continue with, so I don’t want to say too much that could be just spoiler-y enough to drive you away from trying this book.
In a nutshell, if you like England based mysteries and thrillers, murder mysteries, detective focused novels, excellent representation on many fronts, and a story that will keep you guessing until the very last chapter…
…read this book.
I received a copy of The Long Call through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.