The Long Call: my introduction to Ann Cleeves

What is this about?: A man has been murdered, but that is only the tip of the iceberg for Matthew Venn, when his victim takes his investigation to the Woodyard, a place for artists and people with disabilities to attend — including two young women with Down’s Syndrome.

What else is this about?: It’s this bit that makes everything I said above shine in this book. This is about an introduction to Matthew, to his past and his issues with his parents, and the Brethren, the strict community in which he grew up. It’s about letting go of the past and movign forward. It’s also an introduction to his colleagues, who all prove to be integral parts of the story, and of course, Jonathan, his husband. Who is everything Matthew isn’t, and he’s grateful for that.


For the first time in 20 years, Ann Cleeves—international bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows—embarks on a gripping new series.In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

An astonishing new novel told with compassion and searing insight, The Long Call will captivate fans of Vera and Shetland, as well as new readers.

I figured out why I haven’t read Ann Cleeves before — because the pacing would have driven me crazy.

Thank heavens I grew up.

The Long Call is almost a slice of life in Barnstaple. Cleeves introduces Matthew and the characters orbiting him, and then as the case progresses brings in the other characters who are so integral to everything. And even as all this is happening, she introduces us to Simon, a man weighed down by guilt from his past and now Matthew’s murder victim.

Simon is an enigma to the people who knew him, which makes Matthew’s investigation all the more difficult. However, what is interesting is it takes readers to the heart of Matthew’s past — his time with the Brethren, his leaving and the state of his relationship with his parents after. It also introduces us to Jenn and Ross, two of his subordinates. Cleeves gives us insight into their lives, into the things that matter to them and the things that they themselves are grappling with away from the station and their jobs.

Not to mention, there’s the inclusion of other characters integral to the case who all get their own chapters, insights into their lives I wouldn’t have expected — and Cleeves makes it work.

Every word needs to be there, every nuance of relationships is delivered in at a measured pacing, and kept me entirely gripped. It’s the care she takes with giving her characters depth, and evoking the sense of place around them (because Barnstaple is almost a place I’d like to visit, you know aside from the murders).

Jonathan, Matthew’s husband, is where I find myself pausing. I wanted to know more about him, because Matthew adores him, but he is grieving for his father, and still living with insecurities and perhaps depression from leaving the Brethren and having to cut ties with his parents.

Jonathan is the man who pulls him out of that, but I thought I could have used more of an insight into him — but then it occurred to me how much I already knew of everyone else, and I got to thinking maybe it’s worth taking the time about someone so important to Matthew — after all this is only book 1, and given the ending, I am hoping Jonathan and Matthew’s mother both feature more in the future — antagonistic relationships and all.

Back to Simon. Cleeves sets the scene beautifully, drawing as us in to Simon’s life, the people around him, before unmasking the truth of these people that purported to care for him so.

I was impressed because 1) I did not see the different threads coming together the way they did and most importantly 2) her reveals and sleights of (character) hand are delivered without fanfare, but left me marvelling how I had been sucked into her characters before the who of the whodunnit part had been revealed.

What I enjoyed was how intimate this story was, even as it revolved around the most heinous of crimes. It’s as if Cleeves is inviting you into the lives of her characters for a cup of tea and a chat, before she really reveals what they’re all about.

Alright, what should I read next from her backlist?


  • Jen Mullen says:

    🙂 I’m glad you liked this one! Cleeves remains one of my favorites. Raven Black is her first book in her Jimmy Perez, Shetland Islands series. And I love the Vera Stanhope series!

    • Verushka says:

      Thank you for the recommendations — I’ll check out her other titles. I really am kicking myself for not trying he work earlier.

  • Yes to everything you said about this book! I absolutely loved how it didn’t just read as a crime procedural. I look forward to learning more about all of the characters we met as the series continues.

    • Verushka says:

      Me too — this is such a wonderful mix of characters. Very curious to see how it all progresses, especially with his mother.

  • Kelly says:

    I haven’t read anything by Ann Cleeves but she’s been such a prolific author and her books always receive massive praise. I love how intricate this sounds. Usually I wouldn’t be interested in anything with multiple character points of view but it sounds so well written. This sounds like the perfect book of hers to begin with. Wonderful review Verushka darling, so glad you enjoyed this one!

    • Verushka says:

      I was genuinely kicking myself got not diving into her work earlier. Multiple points of view are always tricky to pull off, even more so when it’s not just the main characters, but nothing is wasted in her writing, which makes it all the easier for *all* her characters to matter to me.

  • This sounds so good and so up my alley!

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