The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves sees the intrepid Inspector Vera Stanhope thrust into the world of crime writers, aspiring writers, academics and publishers, when a writing retreat produces not just some fine prose, but a dead body as well. It’s also the first in the series I’ve read that I haven’t (yet) seen as an episode in the TV series. As a consequence, I wasn’t struggling to remember what happened (even while trying to stop my mind working that way and simply enjoy the read!) and could just sit back and relish the ride. And what a great ride it is.
Unpopular, but with sway in the book industry, when one of the principal draw cards for the writing retreat is found stabbed in what appears to be staged killing and Vera’s neighbour, Joanna, looks like the culprit, Vera has no choice but to come to her aid. When another body turns up, again in a fashion reminiscent of a fictive crime-scene, Vera and her sergeant, Joe Ashworth, fear the killer is not only unhinged, but hasn’t finished his or her murderous spree.
Every one of the attendees at the writing retreat is a suspect, whether staff, attendee or guest. Each person is hiding a secret shame or just a secret that renders them potentially liable for the crimes. Only Vera isn’t satisfied with what she eventually uncovers through interviews. It’s only when she begins to delve deeper that she discovers not only a series of dark histories, but people will long, unforgiving memories as well.
Slightly different to the other Vera books, The Glass Room harkens back to more traditional crime narratives in the Agatha Christie vein, where a house party of eccentrics in an old, forbidding mansion, with the wild coast as a backdrop, are at once both suspects and victims. More than any other book to date, this one allows the reader access to Joe and Vera’s thought processes and with Joe particularly, we begin to see sides to his character (and his relationship with his boss) that haven’t yet been explored. It also relies on detecting of the gum-shoe variety, where the police have to actually move away from their computers and venture to new places and homes to gather information and find clues.
Another great read from Cleeves and am already looking forward to my next adventure with Vera and co.