The Long Call

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Maybe it’s an off day...				

Nope, 25% and I can’t go on. I know Cleeves is extremely popular and I enjoyed the only other book of hers I’ve read, the first in her Shetland series. This one feels as if it’s written by someone else, someone with considerably less skill.

Briefly, my major complaint is that this reads like a book written by an older person trying to prove her liberal credentials and sound as if she’s hip to current trends. (I’m roughly the same age as Ann Cleeves so I hope that excuses my bluntness a little. I try not to pretend I’m hip, though, as my use of the word “hip” proves.) The team is made up of a rapacious, predatory, heterosexual female, a sexist, over-ambitious, heterosexual male, and an idyllically happily married, decent, kind, faithful and loving gay man. (Is there such a word as heterophobic? I really object to it as much as I do to homophobia.) The aforesaid gay man is the son of parents who belonged to a strict Christian sect or, as Cleeves prefers to refer to them, “religious bigots” or “God-botherers”. I can’t help wondering if she would have used those terms if he was the son of strict Muslims or Jews. (Is Christianophobic a word? This actual liberal objects to it as much as I do to Islamophobia or anti-Semitism.) 

The story drags along, padded to the extreme with unnecessary nothingness. For example, I don’t need to hear about the predatory middle-aged female’s lust for men so young they could equally be termed boys. Would Cleeves expect me to empathise with a middle-aged male officer who lusted after women young enough to be termed girls? I don’t need to hear in detail about how two of the characters watch TV over breakfast – if they danced naked on the roof as the sun rose over the hills, worshipping the Great God Pan, that might merit a paragraph or two, but watching TV rates no more than a line, surely.

It probably deserves a three-star rating, but since I couldn't bring myself to read on, one-star it is. I own a couple of Cleeves’ earlier books from her previous Vera and Shetland series which I have yet to read, so I can only hope that this one is a blip in her standards – we all have off days. And after spending a couple of hours in the company of this book, this has turned into one of mine...

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Pan MacMillan.
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Thanks to netgalley for the chance to read this book.

This was my first Ann Cleeves book and the first in a new series. I love both Vera and Shetland and thought this would be along the same lines. 

The story starts off a little slow but introduces all the characters well, once I got into the book I really Enjoyed it. The twists and turns were brilliant kept me guessing til the end. 

Can’t wait for the next book.
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Introducing Mathew Venn.

A new detective series from the creator of Vera and Jimmy Perez. This story starts with Mathew at his fathers funeral, looking on from a distance when he receives a call which alerts him to the fact a body has been found on the beach near to his home. A new murder investigation begins.

The body is of a man, a homeless alcoholic whose story leads Mathew to the Woodyard an Arts and Craft community hub that also has a day centre for adults with learning difficulties and is managed by Mathew’s husband, Johnathan.

It also brings him back to the Religious sect he left as a young man and the mother who disowned him. His mother has to ask for his help as her closest friend’s daughter who has downs syndrome has gone missing on leaving the Woodyard, can this be coincidence or are the murder and disappearance connected?

Can Mathew redeem himself in his mother’s eyes? Will the investigation become a conflict of interest? Was moving back to the town of his youth with his new husband the right thing to do?

This book was slow and steady, I was not bored, but I was not gripped by it either. My first Anne Cleeves read I have enjoyed the TV adaptions of Shetland and the character development of Jimmy Perez, but I did not buy into the characters in this book the same way.

I prefer a faster-paced crime story, but I am sure fans of Shetland and Vera will come to love Mathew Venn.


Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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The start of a new series and already more than likely to be televised. A character driven murder mystery novel that rolls along at a relaxed pace. Matthew Venn the lead detective is standing on the periphery at his fathers funeral as the book opens. He has been ostracised by the close religious community his parents are part of After he rejected their faith. He receives a call saying a murder victim has been found. The investigation sends ramifications rattling through the small north Devon town where this is set even threatening to affect Matthews life with his husband Jonathan..The Woodyard project where Jonathan works is deeply implicated as many of the threads take a link back to the venue. Cleeves builds excellent portrayals if the main characters in Venns police team giving an excellent cornerstone for future books
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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.
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4 Stars from me

Being a long term lover of shows like Vera and Midsummer Murders, I was delighted to have the opportunity to read The Long Call by Ann Cleeves as it is the first in a new series; featuring Detective Matthew Venn and set in North Devon.

Matthew Venn is a very likeable character who lives in an idyllic cottage by the sea with his (too perfect?) partner. The Long Call features a search for a missing girl and a murder enquiry both of which seem destined to draw Matthew back into a community - and a myriad of painful memories - that he sought to leave behind.

There is a nice mix of complexity and simplicity throughout the book and Ann Cleeves doesn't shy away from a fair few contentious subjects as the story unfolds.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Long Call and can't wait to see it on the TV when it is inevitably made into a tv series.


The Long Call is the captivating first novel in a brand new series from Sunday Times bestseller and creator of Vera and Shetland, Ann Cleeves.

In North Devon, where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father's funeral takes place. The day Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his family too. Now he's back, not just to mourn his father at a distance, but to take charge of his first major case in the Two Rivers region; a complex place not quite as idyllic as tourists suppose. A body has been found on the beach near to Matthew's new home: a man with the tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

Finding the killer is Venn’s only focus, and his team’s investigation will take him straight back into the community he left behind, and the deadly secrets that lurk there.
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The first book in a new series is always a challenge for an established author, and Ann Cleeves has done an excellent job with this book which is set in Devon. Her new main character, Matthew Venn,  is a gay detective,  who lives yards from the scene of crime with his husband, Jonathan. Ann Cleeves has cleverley integrated Jonathan into the storyline so we get to know something about him too. The other new characters who I'm sure will appear in the next in the series are Matthew's two sidekicks,  Ross, who Matthew initially finds irritating but as the book goes on realises he has perhaps judged him harshly, and Jen, a Scouser who has come to Devon with her two children to build a new life. The murder and subsequent kidnappings and intrigue that occur in this first book keep the reader hooked. I recommend it.
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Ann Cleeves’ Shetland novels are my new favourite comfort read. I like the way she focuses on deep characterisation and ordinary people in a close community, flying in the face of the fashion for high-concept thrillers – ‘Would you kidnap your amnesiac grandmother to save your cherubic but treacherous best friend’s sister?’

I was also excited about The Long Call because Cleeves is known for the strong sense of place in her work and this is set in North Devon, where I grew up.

Detective Inspector Michael Venn has moved back to Devon to live with his husband, Jonathan. The story begins with Michael standing outside the funeral of his father, feeling unable to go in. He is estranged from his family because they are devout members of the Barum Brethren and he lost his faith some years earlier.

Then the body of a man is discovered on the estuary, close to Michael’s home. He has been stabbed and has no identification on him. As Michael pursues the investigation he finds the case has links to both his own past and his husband’s work at the Woodyard, an arts and community centre. The victim was a chef there. Then a young woman with Down’s Syndrome who also attended the Woodyard and was friendly with the victim disappears.

It’s a great set-up and the novel contains all of the classic ingredients of a Cleeves novel, but somehow they don’t gel. The writing is heavy on exposition and big chunks of back story, often introduced without context. The worst instance is close to the end at what should be a very tense and dramatic moment when one police officer bizarrely decides it’s a good time to discuss his relationship with his father and how it has informed his character and career choices. This from a man who has previously shown no signs of introspection.

The novel feels oddly out of time. Apart from the occasional mention of a mobile phone, and the fact that Michael is married to a man, it could have been set at any time in the last four decades. It’s like when you flick through the channels and find yourself looking at an old detective series on Yesterday, where everyone has brown patterned wallpaper and their heads stretched wide to fit the screen.

There is very little mention of forensics. Basic checks, such as on the victim’s finances, aren’t carried out. Everyone insists on speaking face to face, even when the information they have is very trivial or very urgent. The detectives wander into emergencies and then realise they have no mobile coverage. It appears they haven’t heard of radio, databases, budgetary constraints or the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Someone who isn’t your nan even sends a cheque through the post, for reasons that don’t make sense in real-world or narrative terms.

I also felt unconvinced by Matthew and Jonathan’s relationship. You don’t get a sense of any chemistry between them. Of course, happy relationships are always harder to write, but they seem more like a couple in a smoothie ad, with their picturesque cottage and long walks and artisan-potter friend.

There are some positives. The locations were nicely done and felt convincing. I don’t know the Barnstaple area well but Ilfracombe featured. I lived there as a child and occasionally go back and it felt like a realistic portrayal of the town. I did, despite my reservations, want to know how it ended, although one thing I’ve noticed is that in Cleeves novels often the detective guesses the murderer through an intuitive leap rather than evidence. The murderer then obliges with a lengthy confession when confronted, filling in the blanks.

This is an uneasy mix of a novel. The emphasis on character over realism gives it the feel of a cosy, but the plot brings in some pretty serious issues, the implications of which aren’t fully followed through. If you’re a Cleeves fan you’ll probably want to take a look at this, but if you’re new to her work I’d start with the Shetland novels.
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#TheLongCall #NetGalleyhaving been a huge fan of Vera and Shetland, I was excited to be in at the beginning of a new series by Ann Cleeves.  This did not disappoint.  Although a little slow in the beginning, a new series always needs a little time to establish the backgrounds of its main characters, the action soon came thick and fast and the various twists and turns kept me on my toes.  I will look forward to future books in this series where we will get to know more about Matthew Venn and his family. An excellent start to the series!
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I enjoyed this new departure by Ann Cleeves with a new protagonist working in a new area. For me the book began with the feeling of a comfort read- perhaps unusual for a detective novel with murder at its core, but the measured pace and likeable main character lulled me into expecting a cosy novel. Later however its import changed and wickedness was slowly revealed. I am already looking forward to the next in the series.
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Detective Matthew Venn is a great new character. I am sure we are set for another long and satisfying series. The setting in the South of England on the North Devon Coast is beautifully described. I know this past pf the world and it is well worth the visit. I love that Ann Cleeves has introduced some diverse characters. I hope that she will develop them further as I would like to see more ‘disabled’ people taking centre stage. Looking forward to the next book.
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Ann Cleeves has created a new series with a fascinating cast of characters. Set in Devon, DI Matthew Venn is leading a murder investigation with links to a local community hub. Matthew's husband, Jonathan, is at the helm of The Woodyard, which is also a day care centre for adults with learning disabilities. Ann Cleeves has skilfully created an excellent character driven novel which, although slow paced, is an absorbing crime novel. I would highly recommend this book. and look forward to the next in the series. My thanks to Net Galley for my ARC.
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This is the first to introduce us to Matthew Venn in a new series by Anne Cleeves. 

 In true fashion, he is riddled with angst and feels inadequate.  Brought up by a religious sect (think Plymouth brethren) he has left the fold and been exiled by his parents and former friends who now want nothing to do with him. On top of that he is gay which merely makes the situation worse.  He is married to Jonathan who is handsome, charming and delightful and cooks beautifully and is, in short, a paragon.  He run an art/community centre which is also a day care house for mentally ill patients and we have two Down Syndrome women who attend, though it turns out that one of them has been taken away by her parents for a reason which I guessed straight away

.A body is found on the beach, a seemingly homeless man who appears not to be all he appears

.Right no more because I shall start giving the plot away though if, like me, you have read a lot of thrillers you will guess it straight away and also who did it and why.While I enjoyed this book on one level, the writing is good as always with Anne Cleeve, and characteristion spot on, as I got further and further into it I began to feel that the story had been written with a checklist to hand to show tolerance and diversity.  Or, as the current word is, "woke".  I admit to being slightly disappointed but look forward to the next in this series and see if it gets in its stride.
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I really enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting.  Great characters and a great plot line.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone.
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This was my first Ann Cleeves book but as an avid watcher of both the Shetland and Vera tv series, I had high hopes.  

In the end this book took me ages to read because I just couldn't get into it and kept putting it down to read something else.  I didn't want to give up because it has such favourable reviews that I knew it was probanly a case of "it's not the book, it's me".  In the end I was glad I stuck it out because I did eventually get into it.  However, I still found the pace much slower than I was expecting.  I didn't really warm to the characters, Matthew Venn came over as a bit too neurotic for my liking, and other characters like Jen and Ross made more of an impact.

I did enjoy the characters with Down Syndrome, and appreciated that they were shown as capable of having their own lives.  The setting was also very well described, and provided an excellent backdrop.

All in all, I did eventually enjoy this to a degree, but I still found it too slow read for me to be a page turner. I will, however, be reading the next instalment when it's published.

I received an eArc from the publisher via Netgalley, but this review is entirely unbiased and the words are my own.
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Solid Plot, Beautiful Setting......
The very first in a new series - Two Rivers - North Devon set and featuring D.I. Matthew Venn. A body on a beach brings Venn back to the Two Rivers region to commence investigations. Nicely done with credible characterisation, an engaging, solid plot and, of course, a beautiful setting. Very much character driven and well paced this kept me fully interested from start to finish and I'm looking forward to reading more in this very promising series. Recommended.
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A brand new series from Ann Cleeves is something not to be missed and I dived into The Long Call with eagerness. This is the Two Rivers series, so called because the books are set in North Devon between the Taw and Torridge rivers.

There we meet D.I. Matthew Venn, hovering outside a church where inside his father’s funeral is taking place. Matthew Venn is from this area and grew up part of a strict evangelical sect known as the Barum Brethren. But his family ostracised him when he felt he could no longer believe in their God, or any God, and they have not spoken since.

Matthew is married to Jonathan, an easy going chap and head of The Woodyard, a community arts centre that also houses a day centre for learning disabled adults. Two of those attending are Lucy Braddock and Chrissie Shapland, both of whom have Down’s Syndrome.

Matthew works out of Barnstaple Police station where his boss, DCI Joe Oldham is going through the motions prior to retiring. Matthew’s team are DS Jen Rafferty,  a single parent who has fled Liverpool to get away from her abusive partner and Ross May, the DCI’s blue eyed boy who Jen suspects is Oldham’s eyes and ears on the ground. May is over eager and quite competitive which also doesn’t endear him to Jen.

Their first case is, as it turns out, far too close to home for Matthew to be comfortable, though for the reader it provides a great opportunity for us to get to know the principal series characters and the local area. For that reason, I’d recommend this book for anyone wanting to read the series as it develops.

Simon Walden’s marriage collapsed after he killed a child whilst driving under the influence of alcohol. A veteran, Simon had been drifting since then, drinking too much and suffering from depression. After pitching up at the Woodyard he was taken in by two local women, Caroline Preece who is going out with the local pastor and artist, Gaby Henry.

When Simon is found murdered on the beach at Crow Point, Matthew finds himself in a difficult position. He is too close to the Woodyard and should by rights be excusing himself from the investigation, but Oldham is prepared to let him run with it provided he checks in regularly.

Ann Cleeves beautifully captures the North Devon countryside and seascape and her descriptions of the landscape are evocative and sometimes quite haunting. One of the real strengths of this book is the richly drawn nature of the characters who spring to life from the page. These are people we can see, whose characters we understand and this lets us immerse ourselves in Cleeves story.

I really liked that Cleeves has chosen to write an inclusive novel which portrays the strengths of Down’s Syndrome adults and that Matthew, an introvert, relies on Jonathan, a more relaxed and gregarious individual, to be his rock.

The Long Call is a great read; confident, well-plotted and character driven. Cleeves lays out the plot strands and then slowly and cleverly weaves them into an intricate pattern which is not revealed until the final chapters.

Verdict: Fabulously drawn new characters in a complex and well-plotted police procedural written with insight and compassion. What more could you want?
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I seem to be having a year of firsts this year, continuing a theme with reading my first ever Ann Cleeves book. It's not the first I've bought, or necessarily the first piece of writing I;ve read by the author, as I've read short stories, but it is the first full length novel. And being the first in a brand new, North Devon set series, it seemed a perfect place to start.

The story sees DI Matthew Venn called to the scene of a murder, the body found in a location not far from his own cottage, at the point where the two rivers of Taw and Torridge meet. The man has no I.D upon him, but a rather distinctive tattoo which could be the only clue to his identity. As Venn and his team try to track down the victims name, and his past, it brings the investigation worryingly close to home for Venn, and to a family and a community he thought he had turned his back on for good.

Venn is an awkward character, not necessarily instantly likeable, but the more time you spend with him, the more you realise why and the more I can to understand his motivations and his reticence in sharing much of himself with his team. There is a kind of uncertainty about him, a vulnerability, that takes time to be revealed, but his personal relationships and his ability to understand and bond with some of the more vulnerable witnesses in the story help to make him appear a more empathetic character than his staid approach might first suggest. There is a fire in him, a determination to do right, but it is slightly muted compared to other characters you might read about. I loved the inner turmoil he feels and the way in which the author made the reader party to his thoughts and the trouble this caused him as he is caught between his desire to solve the mystery and a potential conflict of interest between duty and his personal life.

The story itself is complex, so many facets are not immediately obvious not the reader. The story is topical, it examines issues surrounding guilt, religion and abuse of power. It features characters with special needs, vulnerable adults, people with differing levels of mental ability, but does so in an empathetic way, highlighting the strength of character that is so often overlooked in portraying adults or children who have Down's Syndrome for example. The characters feel real, beautifully drawn and the character of Lucy especially being fiercely independent, very astute and an absolute joy to read. And then we have the investigative team; not quite as cohesive as a normal team would be, a slight conflict of personalities and motivation between them all, the frustrations that exist between them adding to the tension in the story.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the way in which Ann Cleeves wove the two elements of the story together - the current investigation and the slow revelation of Venn's own past. They do not seem to fit together at first, the opening funeral scenes providing perhaps context to Venn's character, but not necessarily the story. It is only as the threads are pulled together that the full picture starts to emerge and a mighty fine picture it is too, if somewhat darker than you may initially imagine. 

The story is not fast paced, but it suits the idyllic rural setting perfectly. If you are looking for high octane, it's fairly safe to say you won't find it in Barnstaple anyway. But it does not mean that the story isn't without tension, or dramatic showdowns. There is real jeopardy to behold, real danger to the central characters, and towards the end, as the investigation reaches its climax, you can feel the pace and your pulse, begin to pick up speed.

For the first book in a series this is a really strong start, establishing characters, especially Venn, that I am keen to learn more about. Ann Cleeves has also sold me on the area, highlighting places I was not fully aware of before, painting them so perfectly that I now want to go an visit to see them for myself. North Devon makes for a wild landscape, not quite remote but rural enough, even in the big towns, to allow for some very unusual characters to be brought to the fore

An intriguing and complex story that I'd definitely recommend to mystery lovers.
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For the first time in 20 years, Ann Cleeves—international bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows—embarks on a gripping new series.
In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

Thank you to Net gallery for allowing me to read this, in return for an honest review. 

My Review:

We first meet Matthew Venn standing outside a church at his fathers funeral where he is not welcome. Matthew has just moved back to Devon with his Husband to Police the community he grew up in. 

A body is found on the beach and at first it is seen as an accident, however when Matthew inspects the body he notices stab wounds and turns into a suspicious death which Matthew and his team start to investigate.   However the case starts to get a bit too close to home when the case starts being linked with the Woodyard - a community hub which includes a day center for adults with learning disability as well as a cafe, art therapy and mental health support which is managed by his husband. 

As the investigation unfolds which see's them looking into the life of the deceased man it shows that all is not what it seems. 

I enjoyed how you learnt about Matthew and his past throughout the novel even down to issues within his family. But also how Matthew deals with being an openly gay officer. 

I have to say, throughout the novel I had suspicions about near enough everyone, which I love as it means that the story is that well written you can never guess who it is. 

As a lover of Vera and Shetland, I had high expectations for this novel and it certainly did not disappointment. 

Looking forward to reading for in the Matthew Venn series.
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I'll be honest and say that I didn't give this book the full attention it deserves due to sudden family hospital visits so I may have missed vital happenings in the story. Another brilliant storyline and plot from Ann and it's great to read one of her books that isn't on the telly so I can picture the characters in my head rather than making them fit to actors on the telly. No doubt another lovely area that the story is placed in, Devon. Some refreshing new people and situations involved that I've not come across in other murder mystery books before, so that was a plus. I wont give anything away though. No blood and guts described in the murder as not everyone doesn't want all the glory details.
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