The Moth Catcher, Vera Stanhope #7, by Ann Cleeves


Yes, I am still on my Ann Cleeves banquet, reading all the Shetland and Vera Stanhope novels in one sitting. Only, with The Moth Catcher I am, I’m very sad to say, nearing the end of my imaginative journey.

This novel also has a TV episode based on it but, fortunately, I couldn’t remember it very well and was able to lose myself in this tale of a small, privileged group of retired people living in a development near a manor house near the English village of Gilswick. Socialising weekly, knowing the ins and outs of their current lives (but not their pasts), the group refer to themselves as the ‘retired hedonists’. When not one but two dead bodies are found near their development, questions arise that require the skills and nosiness of Vera to answer.

As Vera and her team of Holly, Joe and Charlie search for clues as to the killer’s identity, Vera quickly realises that whoever it is that murdered the two men hasn’t finished with death yet. Time is of the essence.

Once more, this is a fabulously paced and plotted work that really focusses on characters and setting, bringing this tight, closed world and the people who inhabit it to life. Vera, as usual, is a breath of fresh air in her honesty, self-reflection and also awareness of her own and her team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Another wonderful addition to a great series. Only one to go L

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Wildfire, Shetland #8 by Ann Cleeves

I have simply adored the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. Beautifully written, atmospheric, filled with characters that are rich and flawed and who you champion and, better still, understand, these are superb novels. The islands that make up the Shetland group are brought to life with all their quirks and uniqueness, much like the locals. But it’s Jimmy Perez, the “emotionally incontinent” Detective Inspector, single father and widower who steals the show.

I think this is why, after investing in Jimmy so deeply and feeling like I knew what makes him tick, I found this final book in the series less than satisfying. While the central crime and plot surrounding it were terrific, it was Jimmy’s actions and motivation that didn’t feel true to the man we’ve grown to know and, like his love-interest Willow, adore. Not only that, but it felt as if the last part of the book was hurried, as if Cleeves had grown bored with her main characters and just wanted to bring the saga to an end. This was disappointing. After spending so much time with Perez and co, enjoying the warp and weft of the narrative threads and seeing the tapestry come together, it seemed to unravel a bit as it was rushed and untidy.

Maybe it was just me, but I have left the Shetlands and Perez, Sandy and Willow a wee bit frustrated and, after being welcomed as a local, feeling very much a soothmoother.


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The Sleeping and the Dead by Ann Cleeves

21421297I have never before read an Ann Cleeves book (though I have watched and thoroughly enjoy the television series, Shetland, which is based on some of her books), but if The Sleeping and the Dead is any indication of her talent, then I look forward to reading many more.

The Sleeping and the Dead, while a crime novel, is also a psychological thriller. Set in the present, the body of a teenager that has been submerged in a lake for 30 years bobs to the surface, catapulting both the investigative team and those who knew the dead man to explore events that happened a long time ago.

The detective heading the case is a man called Peter Porteous. A loner, he has his own personal demons to deal with. Thorough and old-fashioned, it would be easy to regard him as Inspector Plod, but to do so is to underestimate a man who has seen it all and thus understands how to balance work and life.

Memories are tricky things, and there are many characters in this book with connections to the dead teenager who have secrets to hide, and knowledge they’d rather forget. One in particular is Hannah Cranwell, a prison librarian, who years earlier had a close connection with the dead man and motive for killing him. When someone else involved in the case turns up dead, suspicion once more falls on Hannah.

With what appears to be an eidetic memory, what is that Hannah is not telling Porteous and his colleagues? And why are so many of the people involved not telling the complete truth?

This was a terrifically paced and beautifully written book that had me right until the end where it sort of ended with a whimper, not a bang. After being immersed in the story, I sort of pulled away thinking, “is that it?” and felt slightly disappointed. After drawing the characters and setting so well and establishing great back-stories for the central characters, the links between the murderer and the victims was, in the end, tenuous to say the least. The motivation for murder was incredibly weak; it was not convincing – especially since everything else was so real and logical.

Overall, however, I did enjoy it. I just feel the end, to borrow from the play that forms a centrepiece to the book, Macbeth, was “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…”

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