The second book in the Vera Stanhope series, Telling Tales, centres on a cold case – the murder of young, rather promiscuous and self-confident young girl, Abigail Mantel, who is found dead on a moor. The killer, a Jeannie Long, the former girlfriend of Abigail’s father, the known and a little bit shady womaniser, Keith Mantel, is jailed for the crime she swears she didn’t commit. Fast forward 10 years, and Jeannie’s alibi is found to be solid. Alas, it’s too little, too late as this information comes after Jeannie commits suicide in jail.
Enter Vera Stanhope, untidy, nosy, larger-than-life and strong mentally and physically, who travels to the small, fictional village of Elvet with her partner Joe Ashworth to look into what is now an unsolved cold case to see if she can track down the killer. Not made to feel welcome by local colleagues, Vera nonetheless perseveres. What she finds in Elvet, apart from those who knew Abigail all those years ago including her best friend, Emma, and her family as well as the police in charge of the initial investigation but who are now retired, is a village full of intense, strange people with a propensity to tell stories about themselves and each other. It’s up to Vera to sort out fact from fiction. When someone else connected the old case is found dead, Vera needs to work harder than ever before the killer strikes again.
Wonderfully atmospheric with powerful characterisations, this novel is a treat for crime and mystery lovers, but also those who enjoy a story that lets you really sink your teeth into the people and the place. You can see the houses people live in, smell the flowers growing in the fields and hear the crack of frost upon the ground. In this second book, Vera comes into her own and what makes her tick, her self-doubts, inner convictions as well as the way she relates to people is really fleshed out.
Cleeves is such a terrific writer and I am devouring this series (like the Shetland one) with a mixture of longing and regret. Longing because I am enjoying every single word and regret because I know it will soon come to an end.