reviewed by Gail Byrd
Reading an Ann Cleeves novel is the next best thing to being there, and The Heron’s Cry is no exception. From the opening chapter you can feel DCI Matthew Venn’s discomfort at the thought of having his mother over for a birthday luncheon.
You know exactly how Jen, one of Matthew’s detectives feels to have been drinking too much at the party, and how much she will criticize herself over the coming days for not being sober enough to pay full attention to the other people there.
The same can be said for the other principal characters in the novel. Matthew’s husband, Jonathan, head of the art community who is soft and intuitive everywhere Matthew is solid and logical. Ross, who like Jen is a detective on Matthew’s team. Jen is the more experienced, and the one who will take her lead more from Matthew. Ross, as Matthew sees it, is like a young puppy, always eager to be doing…moving…charging forward and forcing the action. Running through this novel are his questions about his wife Mel, something is wrong? What is it?
It’s not just the people. Cleeves makes the coastal area come alive. You can feel the sea breeze, the cold blowing off the Atlantic, hear the sea birds as they cry. The cliffs, the ocean, the group of people who make up the core of Matthew’s world become almost solid as you immerse yourself in the book.
Then there is the mystery itself. First, Dr. Nigel Yao arranges to meet Jen at the party. When they finally speak, late in the evening, Jen has had far too much wine to think much of it other than he wants to see her in her professional capacity. They make an appointment for the next afternoon, but Dr. Yao is murdered during the night.
The next morning Dr. Yao’s daughter, Eve, discovers his body in her glass studio, murdered with a shard from a smashed vase. It’s an odd way to kill someone, and questions about why are overwhelming. Was he murdered to prevent him speaking with Jen? Did he and his daughter fall out, leading to her killing him in a fit of rage? Perhaps it was Frank, who owns the farm property where Eve lives and works, or Wesley, a driftwood artist who also lives there. What about Sarah and John Grieve, who live in one of the farm’s small outbuildings while John manages the farm and Sarah has a small business of farm goods.
Dr. Yao’s is not the only death. Wesley is murdered in his woodworking studio at the complex where Johnathan is the director. Then Frank dies. Was it murder or suicide? Dr. Yao had been concerned with the suicide of another young man in the area and during the investigation Matthew’s team uncovers a website that encourages people to kill themselves. The person who seems to be pushing those fragile enough to be just on the cusp of suicide has a screenname The Crow. Is he someone local? Was he responsible for this last young man’s death?
The people who make up this novel and the area in which they live are all well-crafted and provide true substance to the novel. The mystery itself is tight and moves at an excellent pace. There is just enough tension to keep the reader engaged in the book without pushing them over into heart pounding suspense. This tension builds to the climax, when the murderer is revealed in a perfect denouement. This is one book you won’t want to miss.
My thanks to Minotaur Press, Berkeley Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own.