Review: The Heron’s Cry, Two Rivers #2 (Ann Cleeves)

I love Ann Cleeves’ cranky old broad Vera Stanhope, so my expectations for this, the second in a new series, were high. I’ve not read the first one (will soon rectify that), but this works fine as a standalone.

The book opens at a party, with one of the officers who works for Matthew Venn – the primary character in this series – as a guest. Dr Nigel Yeo approaches the fairly freshly divorced Jenn, wishing to speak to her about what could be a police matter. He doesn’t want to give her the details, mainly because she’s drunk, but takes her number and says he will call.

The next morning, Yeo is found murdered in the glass blowing shop where is daughter does her work, with a shard of one of her creations in his chest.

Venn is called out to the scene, and soon gathers his team. He’s very thorough, with a quiet sort of command that I really liked. It’s inevitable that I’ll always compare this to the Stanhope books, but Venn is very different than Stanhope: her methods of drawing people out to speak works, but that sort of approach does not suit Venn, who was raised in a cult-like group called the Brethren. Where Stanhope is garrulous to the point of rambling, Venn often barely speaks. Where Stanhope often appears to be unorganized (but is not, it is simply her method), Venn is meticulous and orderly.

Yeo, it turns out, was looking into the suicide of a 19 year man, the son of the owners of a pub that a local philanthropist has helped bankroll. The parents and sister of that man were very angry with the handling of his case, and blame the local system for releasing him due to lack of beds because he did not see, to present himself as a danger. Thereafter, he committed suicide. Yeo was looking into this when killed, so the team looks into it as well.

Soon, other people are murdered, in much the same way as Yeo, and the team now has a serial killer and an ever growing list of people they have to look into for the crimes.

One ding from me would be the actual talking to all the people. There are more than a handful the teams talks to two or three times, where eventually we get more of their stories pulled out.

Meanwhile, Venn’s husband Jonathan tells him that he has invited Venn’s estranged mother to lunch, and this weighs heavily on Venn’s mind as he roves around, trying to untangle the web of suspects, their motives, and how they would have carried out their crimes.

As things race to their conclusion, it’s possible to determine the killer if one is paying super close attention, and the endgame for the capture of the killer seemed a little off to me. I won’t say more than that, as it would give away too much, but it seemed a tad forced and out of character. But it was plausible, at least, so I didn’t ding it for that.

This is not a fast book. While the murders and the investigation take up most of the attention, there is quite a lot of character-driven material in between, as Cleeves further draws out complete pictures for her primary group of characters.

Recommended, and four out of five stars from me.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the reading copy.

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