19 September 2009

Review: TELLING TALES, Ann Cleeves

Pan Macmillan, 2005, ISBN 1-4050-46473, 409 pages

Ten years ago Abigail Mantel died. In what appeared to be an open and shut case, her murderer Jeanie Long was quickly identified and charged. To some people in the East Yorkshire village of Elvet, Jeanie had seemed an unlikely culprit, but even her father believed she was guilty. Now, after years of protesting her innocence, Jeanie has committed suicide in prison, and someone has come forward to give her an unshakeable alibi for the time of the murder. So the killer, probably a local, is still at large, and Inspector Vera Stanhope comes to the village to seek the truth.

She has an advantage - Dan Greenwood, local craftsman, is a former copper whom she has worked with, and he was on the Mantel murder case. For one of Abigail's friends, Emma Bennett, who discovered Abigail's body the past comes back.

Ann Cleeves tells us that TELLING TALES is set in a fictitious landscape east of Hull, but that doesn't stop it from feeling very real. Vera Stanhope is an almost larger than life character, gruff, with a way of winkling confidences from people, and a little unorthodox in her methods. She has that attribute of all good detectives, the ability to make the intuitive leap, to see past what she is being told, to admit when she has made a mistake, and finally to come up with the goods.

My rating: 4.6

TELLING TALES is the second of three novels in the Vera Stanhope series. It completes my reading of the series so far, and I really hope for another soon.

My other reviews:
CROW TRAP (1999), my rating 4.8
Debut novel in the Vera Stanhope series. In the Northern Pennines there are plans to open a new slate quarry. Three women are employed to conduct an environmental survey. Bella Furness, whose cottage holds right of way to the site of the quarry, commits suicide and shortly afterwards one of the women involved in the survey fails to return home. Vera makes her first appearance at Bella's funeral and then is the investigating officer when the missing woman is found murdered. Ann Cleeves has created an intriguing character in Vera Stanhope. She is the sort of detective who more or less does as she pleases, very hands-on. There are many twists in this, keeping me guessing until the end.

HIDDEN DEPTHS (2007), my rating 4.7
Julie Armstrong has been for a 'night out with the girls' and arrives home, barely sober, to find her son Luke in the bath, apparently drowned, scented water and flowers floating on the surface. Whatever happened, her daughter Laura has slept through it all. Inspector Vera Stanhope of the Northumbrian police, is the investigating officer. Soon there is a second body, this time young student teacher Lily Marsh. She too is found lying in a pool of water strewn with flowers but this time in an fairly inaccessible part fo the coastline. The subsequent investigation which Vera leads works rather like peeling back the layers of the onion, seeking the connections between the two deaths. And are they connected to an earlier drowning where mourners threw flowers onto the river where another young man died? This is #3 in the Vera Stanhope series: in tall, lumpy Vera Cleeves has almost created a female equivalent of Reginald Hill's Andy Dalziel. Perhaps that's being unkind to Vera, but she is every bit as clever, as intuitive.

It has now been confirmed
that ITV Studios will bring Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope to the screen, in the person of international award winning actress Brenda Blethyn OBE. A two hour drama based on the third Vera Stanhope mystery, Hidden Depths, will go into production in October. I have grave doubts that Brenda will match my "bag lady" image of Vera though.

In 2006 Ann Cleeves was the first winner of the prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award of the Crime Writers' Association for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland Quartet. Check more biographical details and information about her books on Ann's own website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful review : ). After reading your comments, I'm definitely going to introduce myself to Vera Stanhope. She sounds like a great character, and the stories sound gripping and intriguing. I look forward to checking them out.


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