This latest novel in the Vera Stanhope series, The Seagull, is a ripper. It opens with Vera being forced by her unsupportive boss to deliver and education lecture in a prison. While there, she encounters a former colleague, John Brace, who has been jailed for crimes and corruption. Ill now, Brace tells Vera about a cold case – claiming he didn’t kill the missing man but knows where the body is buried. He will only tell her if she does him a favour.
What unfolds is an investigation that takes the reader into Vera’s past as, along with the detective, we learn more about her father, Hector and the activities he was involved in before his death. Part of the “Gang of Four”, Hector, and three other men, including a mysterious “Prof” would wheel and deal in illegal fauna. The linking factor between people, past and even present, appears to be a former glamorous club called The Seagull. But, as Vera stumbles closer to the truth of what Brace was trying to reveal to her, she discovers the Gang of Four’s activities might also have involved murder.
Once again, Vera and her team, with all their strengths, weaknesses and glimpses into their personal lives are brought to the fore as the case moves along. Characters and setting are wonderfully drawn and the plot is paced nicely. I love the way Cleeves slowly unpeels a person and their history, before she then builds up layers that make them seem so real and very easy to invest in.
I am already looking forward to a new Vera Stanhope novel and frustrated I know I have to wait a while yet!