Cover Image: The Long Call

The Long Call

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Member Reviews

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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What a well thought out page turner of a book. It captures you right from the beginning when a body is found murdered on the beach, with no identification and just a large tattoo of an albatross across the mans neck. In comes Detective Venn to try to solve the crime in this tight knit community. I have to say I suspected everyone along the way except the actual culprit! I love how descriptive this book is, helping to set the scene in your mind. It’s based in Devon which is where I live so I was really able to visualise the places that were mentioned.
It’s exciting that this is the first in a new series, I look forward to reading the next! 
This surely has to become a TV drama series. If you enjoy things like Broadchurch then give this Crime novel a try!

Book Description-
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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Ann Cleeves completed her Shetland series last year and whilst she is still writing Vera Stanhope books, The Long Call is to be her first of The Two Rivers series set in Devon.

The main character is once again a detective, this time called Matthew Venn, who was born and raised in the community - within a religious group who cut him out  when he questioned them and was further disowned by his parents when he married a man, Jonathan.

First they have to  find out who the dead man is and then they have to work out the who and why of the murder itself.

I quite like the main police team but I kind of felt the writing was quite harsh on Jen and how she apparently enjoyed evenings with a bit more alcohol than is recommended; a fact that we don't actually see in the course of the story, yet it seemed to be her identifying feature.

There were a few things I felt wouldn't be allowed in real life crime cases - especially Matthew being allowed to carry on investigating when it began to come close to his personal life. I know he questions it himself but for him to be the one to approach his senior officer and then to be told basically to just carry on felt odd. However, all in all a good read with lots of things to be uncovered.

I look forward to reading more from this series to see how the characters develop over time as I feel there is a lot that could be delved into.
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I never thought that I’d say that Vera Stanhope would get pushed off her spot as my favourite detective but Matthew Venn has nudged his way very close behind her.  Ann Cleeves has a very special talent  for gripping you right from the start of her books, her setting of Devon is a character all by itself  I predict a massive hit for this unassuming detective.  I hope we get to find out more about his relationships and his difficult childhood in future books.  Absolutely cracking read
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for an advance copy of The Long Call, the first novel in a projected series of police procedurals set in North Devon to feature DI Matthew Venn.

When a body is found stabbed to death on a local beach DI Matthew Venn is asked to take charge of the investigation. Their first order of business is identifying the victim and then establishing a motive. His identity is not too difficult to establish but a motive is more difficult as he was a secretive man.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Long Call. It is not an exciting, action packed read but, rather, a slow and gradual accumulation of facts, background and victimology until the rather dramatic denouement where Matthew Venn seems to channel his inner Poirot, holding his theories close to his chest until the reveal. I must admit that I have no understanding of the motivation involved in the murder - it hardly seems credible that people could act in such a way but perhaps I’m just naïve in thinking that people should do the right thing. It made me feel a touch sick at heart when I can read the goriest serial killer novels without flinching and I think this is due to the very everydayness of the situation. I can’t write more without issuing spoilers but it’s a subject I could discuss at length with a reading group in a compare and contrast manner. I liked the ironies and the portrayal of respectability. I think what I’m trying to say is that Ms Cleeves has a quiet, insidious way of making the reader think, not by polemic but by quiet examples.

Matthew Venn is quite a complex character but has nothing that makes him stand out. He is married to his husband, Jonathan, and moved back to Barnstaple from Bristol after the wedding. He was brought up in a strict religious sect but hasn’t spoken to his parents since renouncing his faith as a teenager. Despite this background noise he is a quiet man, anxious and determined to do right, who only opens his mouth when he has something to say. It’s an interesting conundrum for me. I often lament the need for a hook in fictional detectives but when I find hookless I find him a bit boring. I do think, however, that as the series progresses I will begin to find Matthew Venn quietly compulsive.

The Long Call is a good read which I have no hesitation in recommending.
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The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

On the outskirts of Barnstable in north Devon, Detective Inspector Matthew Venn stands outside the church where his father’s funeral is taking place. When Matthew turned his back on the strict evangelical community in which he grew up, he lost his parents. And now, as far as his father is concerned, it is too late to rebuild bridges burnt down so long ago. But then Matthew receives a call. A man has been found stabbed to death on the beach near Matthew’s home, which he shares with his husband, Jonathan. Matthew soon learns that the man had links with the care centre for people with learning disabilities that Jonathan runs. It’s all too close to Matthew and it’s set to become closer still as the investigation takes him back into the community he believed he had left for good.

The Long Call is the first in a new series by Ann Cleeves – set in a different part of Britain (a long way from Shetland and Northumberland) and with a new detective at its heart. And it is magnificent. The mood and sense of place is presented perfectly from the very first chapter in which we meet Matthew Venn for the first time. Ann Cleeves is a genius in laying bare character so carefully, sympathetically and lightly – and quickly. Almost immediately I could believe that Matthew is a real person, in convincing relationships with his partner, colleagues and parents, newly part of this rural community in north Devon where the rivers Taw and Torridge converge. It’s a beautiful part of the world, yet also tucked away. When crime happens here it really does shock.

And Matthew has more than one case to deal with and it is all thoroughly engrossing and involving, especially the parts involving the young women who spend their days at Jonathan’s care centre. These vulnerable women are so beautifully portrayed, as are their relationships with their families.

There are plenty of characters here to interest and intrigue the reader, including Matthew’s team, Jen (his sergeant) and Ross (the constable and the favourite of the Chief Inspector). Each is given their own story, which I can’t wait to see develop through future novels, and the three as a team are thoroughly convincing and realistic – I enjoyed the give and take, the way in which Matthew tries to be a boss while still being equal, their irritations with one another, their loyalty. I also liked the way in which they all cope, or not, with the long hours demanded by a murder investigation. Jen in particular has much to juggle, but so, too, does Matthew. I loved the portrayal of the relationship between Matthew and Jonathan. Jonathan is an intriguing character in his own right.

Matthew is the star here, though, for sure. He is lovingly drawn. He stands alone but also is a keen observer. He’s gentle but at times surprisingly fierce. He feels unloveable but we know he isn’t. I loved getting to know Matthew.

I am a huge fan of Ann Cleeve’s Vera Stanhope series but Vera has undoubtedly met her match in Matthew Venn. I am in awe of the author’s power to create yet another convincing series with characters it’s impossible not to feel drawn to. It’s a remarkable achievement. Matthew Venn is a fantastic, fully realised and immensely likeable detective and this mystery is beautifully told, populated by fascinating characters and set in such a lovely, yet remote location. It moves slowly and it’s all the better for it. The Long Call is character driven and what characters they are. It is most certainly one of the finest crime novels I’ve read in a very long time.
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Two Rivers #1

Detective Matthew Venn is outside the church where the funeral is taking place for his estranged father. His father was part of a strict religious community that Matthew had left a long time ago. Just as he's about to leave, he receives a phone call about a death in his area. Then a disabled girl goes missing.

This new series is set in Devon. We are introduced to a new cast of characters who each bring different qualities. Matthew Venn is the new DI. He has a personal connection to the case, the centre where the women received care and the man volunteered is run by his husband. There are pages that focus on Matthews relationship with Jonathan. I liked Matthew, he has faults and insecurities. This is a great story of secrets, murder and deceit. I thought the story started a bit slow but once you get into it a bit more, the pace picks up. It wasn't an edge of your seat read but it did keep my interest and turning the pages. I can't wait to read the next book in this promising new series.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Pan Macmillan and the author Ann Cleeves for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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