‘Another silence, broken by the sound of waves and the long call of gulls.’ – The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

August 13, 2020 at 3:00 pm (Anglophilia, Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

  When I first found out that Ann Cleeves was starting yet another series, I was dismayed. I want more Vera! I moaned to myself (and to anyone else within range). I was ready to give this book a pass, only the reviews were so exemplary that I changed my mind.

Also I was desperate for a British police procedural with some depth, and I was pretty sure I could depend on Cleeves to deliver. I was right.

This protagonist of this series is Matthew Venn. Estranged from his own parents, he lives with his husband Jonathan in a cottage in North Devon. They are well suited, and happy together. But Matthew’s vocation as detective places heavy demands on his time, and on his attention. The Long Call is the story of a mysterious death, the investigation of which becomes increasingly tangled as Matthew pursued various leads. The cast of characters includes several artists, as well as others whose lives have crossed at some point with that of the victim. They are each interesting people in their own right.

The author has placed an open letter to her readers before the novel actually begins. It begins with a statement that is almost a plea for patience and understanding:

…I feel nervous introducing Matthew Venn to you, almost like a teenager bringing a new girlfriend or boyfriend home  for the first time.

Cleeves also explains that she spent a large part of her childhood in North Devon and so is happy to be back there and writing about it. On the page opposite this letter is a map of the region, a courtesy deeply appreciated by many readers. One of the strong points of this very strong novel is  the vivid way in which Cleeves portrays this setting.

Ilfracombe, North Devon

Ann Cleeves has a great way of enlarging on a person’s character  by showing how he or she reacts to an particular situation. Here Jen Rafferty, Matthew’s second-in-command, is being shown the rooms in a church where group therapy takes place:

There were posters on the walls, semi-religious imagery of rainbows and doves, slogans about taking power, and loving the inner you. Here it seemed hope and the possibility of redemption abounded. It made Jen feel like punching someone.

In the most recent issue of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, critic Kristopher Zgorski says this:

As far as titles go, The Long Call works so well because it not only harkens to the bird-watching elements that so often play a part in the works of Ann Cleeves, but in this case it also speaks to the long reach of trauma and the toxic legacy of conspiracy and cover-up at the heart of this book.

Zgorski also reveals the welcome news that this work has already optioned  for television. If the result is as good as the Vera series and the Shetland Island series featuring Jimmy Perez, then we have much to look forward to.

Oh – and there is another Vera in the works: The Darkest Evening, due out September 8.


This is probably as good a place as any to mention that the issue if Deadly Pleasures to which I’ve just alluded is the last one that will appear in hard copy. I very much regret this change, but I understand the necessity. The magazine is a terrific resource for fans of crime fiction. For more information, visit the newly revamped Deadly Pleasures website. To begin a subscription, see this link.


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