An elderly lady is stabbed to death on a crowded Metro carriage on her way home from Newcastle. Who killed her, and why? How did she fit into the community? How does her story unfold? Vera Stanhope investigates with her trusty DS Joe Ashworth, who was unlucky enough to have discovered the murder in the first place, and when there is another murder the red herrings and tension are cranked up a notch in equal measure.
Who are the main characters?
The star of the show is of course Vera Stanhope, a fusty and feisty Detective Inspector with the Northumberland Police, and we are treated to the return of her “sidekicks” Joe and Holly. These are the returning characters in all the “Vera” books, but in this we also have Margaret Kukowski (the victim) and a whole host of possible suspects.
Where is it set?
It is set in a fictional town in the North East of England. Harbour Street is a small, remote, seaside community consisting of the ubiquitous guest house, fish and chip shop, pub, café and amusement arcade, and is also home to a boatyard, a church and the old rectory that is now a women’s hostel. You could argue that the central character in this novel is the street itself.
My overall impression?
I have always loved the Vera Stanhope books and this one was one of the best. I am a big fan of Ann Cleeves anyway (she wrote the Shetland series) and have never failed to be carried away by her brilliant scene setting and characterisation in all her books. The previous Vera Stanhope book was a little off the boil for me, but this one is much better and is a cracking read from start to almost the finish. The story is believable, the characters are frighteningly realistic and the subplots never threaten or distract from the main story.
I was a little disappointed by the ending though. I felt it was a bit rushed and could have done with being spun out for another chapter. The wrap-up was a bit sudden and was a touch unbelievable for me. It was as if there was a step missing between the rest of the story and the killer’s reveal. Possibly because a publishing deadline was coming up? Perhaps, but apart from that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Will I read the next in the series?
Yes, without doubt. There is no sign of this series running out of steam and the development of the central characters has been realistic and credible throughout and I would like to read more about them and the fabulous setting that Ann Cleeves conveys each time she writes about Northumberland.
Would I recommend it to my friends?
Yes. There is nothing gory about this and it is a great read for anyone who is interested in crime stories or who loves a bit of people-watching.
Incidentally, the Vera Stanhope books have been remade into a brilliant set of TV programmes and they are fantastic. Brenda Blethyn plays the title character and even though she doesn’t match my mental image of Vera (in my mind she is a little like Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple) she does a great job. This one would be great on TV too, especially as we will get to see the delicious David Leon as Joe!