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The Long Call

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Member Reviews

You could say we have enough detectives to be reading about and there is no need for a new one. How wrong you can be as Ann Cleeves introduces us to Matthew Venn in this the first of a new series.

We have moved South and West from Vera and Jimmy Perez stomping ground, to North Devon with Matthew Venn, his Sergeant single mum Jen Rafferty who has escaped a violent marriage and golden boy Ross seems to have got himself caught in a trap of currying favour with a more senior policeman.

Of course we learn all of this as we go through the book.  One might say it is conjecture a mere filling in of pages but actually the characters of these detectives show you how the case can be brought to a close.

A man is found dead on a beach.

The beach is near where Matthew lives with his husband, Jonstahon.

Turns out the man went to the Woodyard Centre where Jonathan is manager.

Then an attendee of the centre goes missing.

Can they all be linked together or is it just a coincidence that everything seems to come back to the Woodyard and the deaths and abductions are just a byproduct.

What is exactly going on?

If you have never read a detective story before (why not?) this would be an ideal place to start. The plot and the pace of the novel show you how it all works, the reasons behind the actions of the criminals but the detectives as well. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, this book shows you how it works when it goes right and obviously wrong.

You are absorbed in the place, the descriptions are so easy to visualise and you can feel yourself there amongst everyone. The choice of relationship for the main detective to have and the introduction of Down Syndrome characters brings another layer to this book. If you think you were getting the stereotypical characters and plot be prepared for something else.

A great start to a series of books which I hope will keep us all entertained and enthralled for many years to come.
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I haven’t read any Ann Cleaves before but heard so many positive reviews. I enjoyed this book, the characters were quite well developed for the first in a set, and quite likeable. It did seem a little drawn out, but i didn’t guess the plot so that was a bonus.  I am looking forward to the next one.
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This is the first title in a new series for the author. I have read a number of books in the Vera and Shetland series. All of these were good and this new series set in the South West is up to the same high standard. The book kept my interest and I liked the plot developments. Highly recommended.
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This is the first Ann Cleeves that I have read and I was looking forward to it.  Sadly, I was rather disappointed.

The Long Call is the first in a new series featuring DI Matthew Venn, who has recently moved back to his childhood home in North Devon.  He is estranged from his parents and the strictly religious group in which he grew up because he is gay and has married another man.  A body found on a beach leads Matthew into an investigation which (of course) involves this group and also the arts and day centre for learning disabled people run by his husband.

Ann Cleeves generates a good sense of place and it’s good to see gay and learning-disabled characters at the forefront of the story...but the story just isn’t all that well done.  There are lots of great, indigestible chunks of characters’ history, quite often of characters who aren’t that important, the whole thing moves very slowly and I got quite bored at times.  The “It’s Personal” aspects felt like a well-worn literary device rather than a natural part of the story and there is (of course) a Race Against Time toward the end with some pretty implausible Investigator In Peril stuff which all felt very formulaic - although we were at least spared a clichéd Cornered Killer Climax.  

I did finish the book, but it was a bit of a slog and I’m not inclined to pursue the series.  Personally, I can’t really recommend it.  (2.5 stars rounded up to 3.)

(My thanks to Macmillan for an ARC via NetGalley.)
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Well known for her Shetland and Vera series, Ann Cleeves is opening yet another beginning with THE LONG CALL and introducing us to DI Matthew Venn. A prolific crime writer, Cleeves captures the essence to the location and the characters with an enthralling plot that continues to surprise from beginning to end. Her unique style is captivated on every page as she addresses and incorporates some of the societal prejudices towards homosexuality as well as the mentally impaired. She does this cleverly and with sensitivity.

The locale is North Devon. In the opening scenes, Matthew Venn is secreted in the bushes of a church on the fringes of his father's funeral. He knows he would not be welcome there, his mother blaming him for his father's death with his "marriage to a man". And yet he hovers to say his goodbyes.

Matthew was raised in a strict fundamentalist religious sect called the Barum Brethren. But his faith was questioned upon going to university in Bristol and his eyes being opened to life of a different kind. Rebelling against the restraints of the Brethren, upon his return Matthew publicly shunned all that he had been taught and lead to believe. As a result, he became an outcast - not only to the Brethren but to his family also.

His decision to join the Police gave Matthew the structure he had been brought up with and for which he now craved. The order and the routine was something he was familiar with and without it he became anxious. As a result of his upbringing, Matthew is socially reserved with a conservative wardrobe of suits and ties and a need for cleanliness. Jonathan, on the other hand, is his polar opposite dressing in shorts, t-shirts and sandals, is messy and loves to entertain. A perfect match, they compliment each other.

Now settled in Barnstaple - the same town in which his mother still lives as well as the members of the Brethren community he rejected - little does Matthew know that the investigation he is about to begin will bring him back into contact with that life that will bring his full circle.

A body has been found on a beach at Crow Point just short of the home Matthew shares with his husband Jonathan. There is no name and no ID - nothing to identify him except for the tattoo of an albatross on his neck. And the only witness to the murder - a herring gull with its long mournful cry. The man is soon identified as Simon Walden, a recovering alcoholic with a past, who volunteered at the Woodyard - a multi-use community centre run by Matthew's husband, Jonathan.

As the story unfolds, we become more familiar with the Woodyard and its characters therein as we meet a social worker, an artist, a priest and some of the people who attend programs that are run there. In particular, the day centre for the mentally disabled and those with learning difficulties where 30 year old Lucy and 42 year old Christine attend - both who have Down Syndrome.

Things begin to get complicated when Matthew and his team discover that not only did Simon have ties to the Woodyard, but that some of the board members of the Woodyard have ties to the Brethren. Matthew begins to wonder if he should recuse himself as SIO due to a conflict of interest. But a murder investigation doesn't come along every day in Barnstaple...and a case like this is what he thrives on. 

Then one of the women with Down Syndrome disappears and Matthew receives a call for help that he never thought he would. Tensions mount and the intensity rises as Matthew and his team - DS Jen Rafferty and DC Ross May - frantically try to find out what happened to Christine and why she was taken. And then Lucy disappears while out with her father. Who has taken these women and what do they want from them? Could the motive be something more sinister?

As the investigation gains momentum, so does the pace as the team sift through information, clues and red herrings to get to the truth. Everyone appears to be hiding something as it all begins to feel incredibly secretive and sinister. But someone knows something. They secret is to find who that someone is...and to uncover what it is they are hiding.

There are so many facets to this story - as well as Venn himself - and the key is trying to figure out how it is all related. I remained blinded throughout without a clue as to who was doing what and while there was no real earth-shattering reveal, when the pieces began to fall into place only then did it complete the full picture.

I really enjoyed this story, despite its slow start (although it wasn't too slow), and I loved the intricacies of each story that was cleverly interwoven with the others. The humanity characterised in each person and their stories was beautifully and sensitively written. To see the sunshine in the smile of someone with Down Syndrome, their innocence and their kindness, amidst the more sinister tale that is woven within.

I really liked Matthew and Jonathan, and I look forward to learning more about them in future novels. I love how Matthew is not your typical brash, aggressive, alcohol drinking, divorced detective. He is compassionate, empathetic and sensitive whilst also being complex and a deep analytical thinker. I like that he is in a loving relationship, one that compliments him and not works against him and vice versa. I also like that this first book gave us the perfect introduction to Jonathan and his position in the community - both professional and personal. I also like that Matthew and Jonathan are so different and yet they compliment each other perfectly with grace and understanding.

Another character I look forward to seeing more of is DS Jen Rafferty. She's a single mother of two teenagers having escaped an abusive ex-husband in Merseyside. We caught a glimpse of her life outside of the police force which I thought was a nice touch, and no demands on her to fulfill her duties as a police officer rather than spending time with her children. I like that Cleeves has tried to find that balance. DC Ross May is someone we don't particularly take to at first, but as the story unfolds and the investigation barrels towards the end, we see a different side to Ross than what is at first portrayed. As a young DC, he is someone who wants to be part of the action now without the benefit of learning through experience. I think he could become a good asset to the team if he keeps his impatience in check. And I hope we don't have any of that in-house fighting that is all too stereo-typically common.

And the victim? Although he had his secrets, he had made a serious mistake for which he was desperately trying to redeem himself...and it cost him his life. From what we could see through others' perspectives in hindsight, he seemed a decent enough bloke trying to make amends.

And of course, there were your genuinely unlikable and horrible people. Some of which I'd hoped were guilty in one way or another and held accountable for their sins, if not their abhorrent behaviour.

I wonder if we will see much in the future about the Brethren and the part it has played in Matthew's life. It is a tough topic, but a very interesting backstory to have, as the Brethren are a very strict and secretive community. They don't allow outsiders, they live a simple lifestyle (some without technology), and they truly do shun any member who dares to leave their tight-knit sect - including family. I think it's an interesting subplot to include to a major character's backstory. I look forward to seeing how this develops.

As in true Cleeves style, THE LONG CALL is a character-driven police procedural with an intricate plot that keeps you guessing. An old-fashioned type murder mystery that builds, weaving an intricate tapestry that erupts in a vast array of colour to reveal the final picture.

Recommended for fans of British mysteries and of course Cleeves' own fan base, THE LONG CALL is a brilliant introduction to a new series I can't wait to delve further into.  And of course, recent news that THE LONG CALL has already been optioned for TV and is currently in development from the makers of Shetland and Vera, is fantastic! I look forward to seeing the portrayal of Matthew Venn and his team.

I would like to thank #AnnCleeves, #NetGalley and #PanMacmillan for an ARC of #TheLongCall in exchange for an honest review.
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This is a great start to a new series. Great characters and plenty of suspense. I will definitely be looking out for the next one.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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I’d like to thank Pan MacMillan and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read ‘The Long Call’ by Ann Cleeves in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

The body of a man is found stabbed on the beach at Crow Point and although DI Matthew Venn is at his father’s funeral watching from afar, he gets a call to return to his office at the Devon & Cornwall Police station to take charge of the case.  As he unearths details of the victim his investigation takes him back to the community where he grew up before he was disowned by his family.

This is the first thriller I’ve read by Ann Cleeves and although it had a strong and interesting plot I found it a bit slow and drawn-out for my liking.  The descriptions of the countryside were so good I could almost hear the birds singing, and there were a few red herrings scattered along the way to confuse, but I didn’t really warm to any of the characters.  Being told on practically every other page that Jonathan was Matthew’s husband was unnecessary, once was enough to for me to place it into the context of the story and Matthew’s history, but apart from that I enjoyed the story and the conclusion was excellent, not at all what I’d expected.
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Ann Cleeves is one of the most consistent and entertaining writers of crime fiction working today, and I was very excited to get an ARC of The Long Call from Netgalley. The setting moves right down the south to Devon, with a brand new detective character, Matthew Venn. As the story opens  Matthew is standing outside the church where his father's funeral is taking place - his estrangement from his strict evangelical family has been a longstanding part of his life. Then he gets a phone call from a member of his team and he is drawn into the investigation of a body found on a nearby beach. 

There's a great sense of place and atmosphere in The Long Call, and I raced through the book, enjoying just "one more chapter" until I thought I might as well just continue to the end.
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Having read and enjoyed two of this author's other series - Vera and Shetland - albeit playing catch-up I was quite excited to get in at the beginning of this, her latest series. I know that series openers have to set the scene and introduce the characters, as well as provide a cracking storyline, but I can't help feeling that the balance wasn't quite right in this book - for me anyway there was far too much backstory and description and I felt that this overshadowed what was going on with the crime being solved. This was more prevalent early on which meant that the beginning did drag a bit for me. That said, I was interested and intrigued enough to read on and was rewarded at the end by a cracking finale. Another thing I did notice was that the book did come across as a bit "TV ready" in nature. With both Vera and Shetland flying high in the TV ratings (and rightly so) I'm not sure whether this new series was written with the TV translation in mind - if indeed the rights haven't already been snapped up.
So, we start with a body on a beach. Not a natural death as first thought but, on closer inspection, it appears he'd been stabbed. Enter Matthew Venn (and yes, he is known by both names quite a lot throughout the book) and his team to investigate. Things get a bit personal for Matthew Venn (annoying isn't it!?!) as their investigation starts to point towards the Woodyard - a community hub comprising mental health support, art therapy and a cafe, as well as a day center for adults with learning disability - which is headed up by his husband Jonathan. 
And so begins a rather convoluted investigation which has all the usual elements you'd expect in a Police Procedural - secrets, lies, duplicitous behaviour - you get the gist. Even Matthew Venn's own past with his estranged family rears its ugly head on a couple of occasions as. together with his team, he tries to cut through the noise to get to the truth.
Apart from being a very slow burn initially, and my other points notwithstanding, this was a good solid series opener which has piqued my interest for more. In Matthew we have an openly gay senior Police officer - something a little different from the norm in crime fiction, if not in the real world too. Not sure of the statistics on that but, to be honest, as with real life this has nothing whatsoever to do with how good he does his job. Which in this book he does very well indeed. He's methodical and thorough and, mostly, gets on well with his team. Chalk and cheese with his husband though but they rub along well.
The main story, once we got to the nitty gritty, was well plotted and executed. Yes, I would have liked it to have got on with itself a little better, especially in the early stages but, hopefully, as we now know pretty much everything about everyone important's personal past and present, the next in series will hopefully crack on a bit. 
All in all, looks like being another winner for Ms Cleeves. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next book. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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A new detective from one of my favourite authors, this time set in North Devon, between the 2 rivers Taw and Torridge.  Ann Cleeves is one of my favourite authors. I've read and loved both Vera, set in and around the north east and Jimmy Perez set in Shetland.
Ann Cleeves has such an amazing skill in scene setting that I could almost smell and hear the sea from her descriptions in the Long Call.  And so Matthew Venn's story begins. It took me a good  few chapters to warm to Matthew, but as his story unfolds you begin to understand why he is as he is.  His supporting team, Jen and Ross, are also well rounded and their stories are just waiting to be told. 
The story centres around an unknown male body being found on the shore, the Woodyard, a community centre run by Matthews partner and the people who use it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book  and I look forward to following  Matthew, Jen and Ross ..... hopefully quite soon.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for an advance reading copy.
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A new detective and a fascinating story. As usual I didn't have a clue where the story was going until the author told me.A good combination of characters.
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The Long Call by Ann Cleeves. I really enjoyed this book. Great characters and great ingredients for a murder mystery with an unexpected twist- which was handled really well. There are so many fascinating elements to this story, from the Brethren belief system and practices to the challenges faced by parents whose children have learning disabilities in balancing protection and  independence. Great pace and plenty of material for a sequel...or two.
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The new series opener from the prolific crime writer Ann Cleeves establishes the foundation for another enthralling series, that I'm sure will receive many justified accolades. The Long Call builds wonderful depth to a location, a community, multiple complex characters and a plot with enterprising threads that continuously surprise.

DI Matthew Venn is the main character and will lead the investigation of a man found murdered on the beach at Crow Point. The area is situated where the rivers Taw and Torridge join at the North Devon coast, a location that Ann Cleeves brings vividly to life. The region between the two rivers is set to be the focal point of the series, giving it its name.

Matthew’s father has recently died and because Matthew left the Barum Brethren church, he has been disowned by his family and has to watch his father’s funeral from a distance. He is now married to Jonathan, a man opposite to Matthew in many ways, including dress and outgoing persona, but a trusted partner where they can provide strength and support to each other. 

Ann Cleeves works with great detail and depth to create main and supporting characters that individually generate interest and empathy. The characters from the police force and the community are so rich we actually contemplate what draws us to each personality. I hope DS Jen Rafferty, herself a very appealing character, remains with Matthew in this series. Her own background has had its troubles, including an abusive ex-husband, but she is astute and her instinctive insights provide an intriguing dimension in the investigative team. 

At another level, Ann unmasks some societal prejudices and exposes trite behaviour towards gays and disabled and mentally impaired people. It is wonderful to experience the diversity of our people as an integral part of society, and an integral part of a crime story.

The main plot is slowly developed and the investigation into the victim connects him with the Day Centre at The Woodyard. The Woodyard is managed by Jonathan which causes Matthew to consider how appropriate his personal connections affect the investigation. While the pace of the story is more sedate than other thrillers, the momentum does shift into a higher gear towards the end with surprises and story plots that weave together to bring the story to a fascinating conclusion. 

Nothing that Ann Cleeves does is stereotypical, uniqueness captivates every page and her writing style is clever and accomplished. This is a series that I’m going to invest time reading each book she publishes. I would highly recommend this book and I'd like to thank Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC version in return for an honest review.
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When we first meet DI Matthew Venn he's at his father's funeral, although 'at' rather overstates the proximity. He sees everyone - his mother and the preacher included from a distance - but he doesn't go it. He wouldn't be welcome. Those attending are part of the Barum Brethren and the teenage Matthew was thrown out when he told the congregation how wrong they were in their beliefs. It coincided with him leaving university and joining the police force. The announcement of Matthew's marriage to Jonathan Church was in the local paper and whilst he doesn't know if his father saw it, he can't imagine that it will have gone down well.

There's no time for introspection, though, as the body of a man has been found on the beach at Crow Point, not too far from where Matthew and Jonathan live. He's got no identification on him, but a shopping list takes Matthew's team back to the Woodyard, a centre for the arts, a community hub and the home of the centre for people with learning difficulties. Jonathan runs the Woodyard and DS Jen Rafferty and DC Ross May are conscious that there might be a conflict of interest for Matthew Venn as their enquiries all seem to lead back to the Woodyard, particularly when a young woman with Down's Syndrome is abducted.

I was saddened when Ann Cleeaves stopped writing the Shetland novels but I can understand how difficult it would have been following the death of her husband, renowned ornithologist, Tim Cleeves. Instead she's put her detective in North Devon, the area where she grew up, and it comes alive in her hands. Some of the tourist destinations are there - such as Ilfracombe - but this is the North Devon where people live and work.

The characters are good too. I liked the combination of Matthew Venn, who prefers rules and order, who - if we're completely honest - lacks that bit of patience to be a really good detective, and Jonathan Church, who has the patience to sit and talk to a badly frightened young woman with Down's Syndrome. He's not worried about rules, or order, but he will adapt to suit Matthew. The police team comes off the page well, too. DS Jen Rafferty is newly escaped from an abusive relationship. Children Ben and Ella largely fend for themselves with only the slightest of oversight from Rafferty, who's become something of a party animal since she left her husband in Liverpool. DC Ross May could become a problem. He's DCI Joe Church's golden boy - and mole in the Venn team. He's devoted to his wife, Melanie, who Jen Rafferty describes as the perfect fashion accessory.

The plot is good too and I didn't work out who dunnit despite the fact that all the clues were there. Cleves manages to deliver a more-than-readable first-book-in-the-series whilst preparing the ground for what I hope are many books to follow. I'd like to thank the publisher for letting Bookbag have a review copy.

If you've read the Vera Stanhope series and the Shetland novels we can recommend anything by Paula Daly who brings the Lake District to life as few others do. Steve Burrows does something similar for North Norfolk in the early books of the Birder Murder series.
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Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez were always going to be hard acts to follow. When I saw that Ann Cleeves had written the first book in a new detective series, I was keen to give it a go. The Long Call has a complicated plot with well-written characters and a sense of place, but I could not warm to Matthew Venn. I realise I’m in a minority, but he seemed bland and uninspiring; there was just something missing. The pace was quite slow to begin with and only picked up towards the end, but perhaps this is to be expected in introducing a new series. I will read the next book to see how the character develops as I think Ann Cleeves is a very talented writer. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The veteran crime writer Anne Cleeves begins a new series set in North Devon, between the 2 rivers, Taw and Torridge, where DI Matthew Venn, a gay man is his 40s married to his husband, Jonathan, is about to lead his first big murder inquiry when the dead body of a man is discovered on the sands, the victim has a tattoo of a albatross on his neck and has been stabbed. Venn is a local boy who grew up with his parents, part of a strict evangelical church, known as the Barum Brethren. His family and the church ostracised him when he renounced their faith, their God a creation in their own image, as hard, cold and inflexible as they are. He is feeling a sense of regret, his father has just died, and he never got to see him as his health deteriorated. Venn's partner, Jonathan is the head of The Woodyard, a community hub combining the arts, a cafe, and a day centre for learning disabled adults.

Within Barnstaple Police, Matt is primarily helped by DS Jen Rafferty, a woman who left her abusive husband in Liverpool, settling locally with her children, although she still misses city life. The other main cop, Ross May, is deemed to be the eyes and ears of DCI Joe Oldham, a fact that makes others more wary of him. The victim turns out to be Simon Walden, a former forces man, whose marriage had broken down after he killed a child whilst driving under the influence of drink. He had been working as a seasonal chef at a hotel, had been homeless, with alcohol and depression issues. He had been provided with a home by Caroline Preece and artist, Gaby Henry. Attending the Day Centre at The Woodyard are Down's Syndrome women, Lucy Braddock and Chrissie Shapland. As connections between the murder and The Woodyard begin to emerge, Venn is plagued by his personal connections to the case which should mean he should not be part of the investigating team, whilst his past history with The Brethren proves to be invaluable to the case. 

Anne Cleeve provides her trademark vibrant sense of location, I felt as if I was right there in North Devon. I have high hopes for this series, a lot of effort went into establishing and embedding the sense of place and the characters. This is not a fast paced read, it's a more character driven novel, I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of the learning disabled women, Lucy, Chrissie and Rosa Holsworthy and their central role in the mystery. For the most part, this book was a 4 star read, but somehow in the last quarter it became a 5 star read as the multiple threads begin to come together so skilfully. I found this an absorbing and engaging crime read, although it might possibly be a little too slow moving for some readers. I am eagerly looking forward to the next in the series! Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for an ARC.
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A mans body is found on the beach at Crow Point, the dead man volunteered at a Community Centre which just happens to be run by the lead Detectives husband, Is the murderer an attendee also ?? So begins an investigation into all those connected 

This is the first in hopefully a brand new series and if the next are as good as the first then we are in for a treat
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A new series of books begins, a new landscape unfolds, but the same intimacy, intricacy and sense of place remains, lives of formidable stoicism and quiet integrity rocked by senseless violence, observed with a clarity and humanity that is hard to resist. In Matthew Venn, Ann Cleeves has created a worthy colleague for Jimmy Perez and Vera Stanhope and a series which I look forward to following as it unfolds. 
One morning as you follow the beach, just where the rivers Torridge and Taw collide, in the distance you see a flash of blue lights. When you squint into to the bright reflected sunlight you can just make out something at the water's edge and further away a dark-suited figure and a woman with a shock of red hair. A herring gull, high above swoops and calls out mournfully. I'm afraid this may become a familiar sight, yes, this is a place where transient workers seek seasonal employment, where drug problems haunt the less fashionable streets, but more importantly this is the setting for a new series of crime novels from Ann Cleeves.
Detective Matthew Venn watches his father's funeral from a distance, an exile from his own home, disowned by his parents and the fundamentalist evangelical community in which he was raised, he has sought a new certainty, a new discipline in the police force. Then a body with a distinctive tattoo of an albatross on its neck and a mortal stab wound in the chest is found on the beach near his home and the investigation soon draws him back to examine the dark secrets of his own past.
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The Long Call is Part 1 of Ann Cleeves’ new detective series set in North Devon. Detective Matthew Venn, recently returned to the area he was brought up in, heads a unit investigating a body found on the beach.
Matthew and his team attempt to unravel the victim’s links to a local religious community and a recently opened Arts Centre for able-bodied and disabled adults. At first there are more questions than answers, but eventually, all falls into place.
This latest from Ann Cleeves is a well-structured crime novel. The striking backdrop of North Devon is described skilfully and with the appreciation of a nature lover. Combined with this writer’s insights and empathy with her characters, even the worst ones, the result is a compelling read.
No prizes for guessing how well this will do.
With thanks to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan
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This ARC was courtesy of netgalley - all thoughts and opinions are mine and unbiased

I've not read any of her books before but seen them around and reviews so was thrilled to be able to read an advanced copy

Loved this - can't believe I haven't read any of her books before but will certainly be searching out for more

Lot of twists and turns

So well written, lots of interweaving of the storyline - wonderful

Part of series - can't wait for the next one
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