The new series opener from the prolific crime writer Ann Cleeves establishes the foundation for another enthralling series. I’m sure this one will receive many justified accolades. The Long Call builds wonderful depth to a location, a community, multiple complex characters and a plot with enterprising threads that continuously surprise.
DI Matthew Venn is the main character and will lead the investigation of a man found murdered on the beach at Crow Point. The area is situated where the rivers Taw and Torridge join at the North Devon coast, a location that Ann Cleeves brings vividly to life. The region between the two rivers is set to be the focal point of the series, giving it its name.
Matthew’s father has recently died and because Matthew left the Barum Brethren church as a non-believer, he has been disowned by his family and has to watch his father’s funeral from a distance. He is now married to Jonathan, a man opposite to Matthew in many ways, including dress and outgoing persona, but a trusted partner where they can provide strength and support to each other.
Ann Cleeves works with great detail and depth to create main and supporting characters that individually generate interest and empathy. The characters from the police force and the community are so richly portrayed, it is a pleasure to enjoy and contemplate each personality. I hope DS Jen Rafferty, herself a very appealing character, remains with Matthew in this series. Her own background has had its troubles, including an abusive ex-husband, but she is astute and her instinctive insights provide an intriguing dimension in the investigative team.
At another level, Ann unmasks some societal prejudices and exposes trite behaviour towards gays and disabled and mentally impaired people. It is wonderful to experience the diversity of our people as an integral part of society, and an integral part of a crime story.
The main plot is slowly developed and the investigation into the victim connects him with the Day Centre at The Woodyard. The Woodyard is a safe haven for disabled, impaired, recovering and disenfranchised people and is managed by Jonathan, which causes Matthew to consider how appropriate his personal connections affect the investigation. While the pace of the story is more sedate than other thrillers, the momentum does shift into a higher gear towards the end with surprises and story plots that weave together to bring the story to a fascinating conclusion.
Nothing that Ann Cleeves does is stereotypical, uniqueness captivates every page and her writing style is clever and accomplished. This is a series that I’m going to invest time reading each book she publishes. I would highly recommend this book and I’d like to thank Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC version in return for an honest review.