Silent Voices, Vera Stanhope #4

Silent Voices is the novel fans of the TV series will appreciate if for no other reason than it’s in this book that Joe Ashworth comes into his own.

While investigating the murder of a social worker, Jenny Lister, who everyone describes as a “good woman”, Vera (who found the body) uncovers links to past cases and a young, troubled mother in jail as well as a former colleague of Jenny’s who has been hounded out of her job and town and now lives in the same village.

As Vera, Joe and the team investigate, a series of possible suspects with historical links to each other and a health clinic called Willow emerge. But when another person is found murdered, the case becomes even more complex than Vera imagined. Knowing she has to solve it before more people lose their lives, the hunt for the killer and, more importantly, his or her motivation, becomes fraught.

Wonderfully plotted and written, what is really rewarding for fans is that we get to not only see the case through Joe’s eyes and learn more about the way he thinks, but we get to see Vera as he does. Understanding her perhaps better than anyone, Joe is not immune to finding her frustrating, belligerent and demanding, but it’s the way in which he reconciles her less attractive attributes that endears us to him and to his difficult boss.

Another fabulous instalment in a terrific series.


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Thin Air (Shetland Island #6) by Ann Cleeves

Alright. My. Bad. This is the very first Ann Cleeves book I have read (I think), despite being a huge fan. How? Because of the TV series’ based on her novels. You see, I watch and love the TV series’ – Shetland and Vera  – and made the not-so-silly-really assumption that because I know who the killer is, I know the story. Uh ha… no, I don’t. While the TV series’ are sensational (Brenda Blethyn as Vera is a revelation, pet, and while Douglas Henshall isn’t dark like the Perez of Cleeve’s novel – something I learned with this one – he is sublime), the books are even better – and that is saying a great deal.

I adored this one, Thin Air, a story I wasn’t familiar with (hence I started on book 6, as I thought I knew the others). It commences with a group of friends returning to the isle of Unst in the Shetlands for a ‘hamefarin’ or “homecoming” – this being for the wedding of local boy, Lowrie, to English Caroline. When one of the wedding party, Eleanor, disappears and is later found dead, suspicion points to her friends. After all, what reason would any locals have to kill a woman who was not only friend of the bride, but also fascinated by the local legend of a ghost child who drowned over 100 years ago?

As Jimmy, Willow and Shane investigate, the more deception and lies they uncover as well as secret lives. Or so it seems. But who or what lies behind the ghost story and why are they so keen to protect it they would kill?

Beautifully crafted, while the plot is tight and the characterisation rich and believable, it’s the emotional depth that Cleeves gives to not only the fresh cast of suspects and locals, but to Perez and his peers. Not only that, but the island and the customs of the Shetlanders are brought to life in the most wonderful way. You really feel as if you’re there, watching the eternal gloaming of summer, feeling the spray of the sea and the cries of the birds. You are also beside Perez and co as they piece together the mystery behind this murder and those working hard to keep it hidden.

I feel so smitten with this series, I am going back to the beginning because, as usual, the TV show can only reveal so much. I can’t wait to reimagine each investigation  – only now it will be through Cleeve’s masterful eyes.

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The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

10350487The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths is the first book in a crimes series that features a female archaeologist named Dr Ruth Galloway. Living on her own with two cats on the windswept coast of Norfolk, bordering the marshlands, is just how no-nonsense pragmatic Dr Ruth likes it. But when a child’s bones are discovered on a nearby beach and the gruff DCI Harry Nelson asks Dr Ruth’s assistance in determining the age of the bones, she finds herself drawn into not only the distant past, but the case of a child who went missing over a decade ago, a case that continues to haunt DCI Nelson to this day.

Far from being able to enjoy her solitude and work, when another child goes missing, Dr Ruth is flung into the present and the urgency that accompanies such a case. Assisting DCI Nelson also means being forced to deal with people she wouldn’t normally – grieving families, angry suspects, and the enigmatic “wizard”, Cathbad. It also requires her to forensically examine a series of letters the DCI has been sent over the years since the first child went missing, letters filled with archaic knowledge, literary smart, experience in archaeology and which taunt and torment Nelson. But when her former tutor, the charismatic and clever, Erik, returns to Norfolk for a sabbatical, Dr Ruth finds the past and present start to collide in ways that are not only sinister, but deadly…

Well-paced and written, this is a book you can lose yourself in as the landscape of Norfolk and its rich and fascinating past come to life. The characters are beautifully drawn and Dr Ruth and Harry in particular are wonderful in their foibles and eccentricities. The plot is good, if a little meandering in parts, but the conclusion was convincing and I enjoyed Dr Ruth’s and Harry’s world so much I reached for the next book upon finishing. A terrific, pleasurable read.

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