“The Long Call,” a new detective/mystery series by Ann Cleeves is driven by strong characters who are deep, likeable and presented in great detail. Cleeves also is adept in providing a good sense of place. You can easily picture the little town of Barnstaple in North Devon, England.
The book begins with senior detective Matthew Venn standing outside church during his father’s funeral. Venn is loving and smart, a deep thinker. He gets a call that a body has been found on the beach at Crow Point. The murder brings Venn back to the community he left when he was ostracized for renouncing the faith of the strict evangelical Barum Brethern. His history and familiarity of the Brethern helps Vern with his murder investigation.
The murder victim, Simon Walden has had struggles. He felt guilty for killing a child in a car crash while under the influence. The guilt resulted in depression and alcoholism. Things go from bad to worse when Walden’s marriage falls apart, and his restaurant closes and is sold, rendering him homeless. Walden ends up in Barnstaple.
Things improve for Walden after he arrives there. He shares an apartment with Caroline Preece and artist Gaby Henry. He volunteers at the café at the Woodyard Center, a community center that combines the arts, a café, and a day center for learning disabled adults. Venn’s husband Jonathon is the administrator at Woodyard.
As Venn delves into the investigation of Walden’s murder, it seems uncannily connected to the Woodyard Center and the Brethern, causing Venn’s past and present to collide. Assisting Venn with the investigation are Detectives Jen Rafferty and Ross May, also well-developed characters.
“The Long Call” has multiple plots and numerous loose threads running through it. Although the story is rife with twists and surprises, the end comes together nicely. In her novel, Cleeves also touches on interesting topics—Down Syndrome and the power of the church.