Author: Ann Cleeves
Publication: Minotaur Books, hardcover, October 2019
Plot: In the first of a new series, Matthew Venn, a Detective Inspector in North Devon is watching his father’s funeral from a distance when, moments later, he learns a body has been found near the home he shares with his husband, Jonathan. Matthew became estranged from his family due to his rejection of his parents’ evangelical religion, the Barum Brethren, but he puts his familial angst away to investigate the crime, or so he thinks. As Matthew and his team examine the death there are so many conflicts of interest that he suspects he should remove himself from the case: the fact that the body was found so close to his home, several connections to the Woodyard, the art/day center that Jonathan manages, and the appearance of members of the Brethren.
My Impressions: The day they found the body on the shore, Matthew Venn was already haunted by thoughts of death and dying.
What a first sentence! This is a very dark and atmospheric new mystery from popular Ann Cleeves, whose other books I have enjoyed. Matthew Venn is one of the most serious protagonists I can remember reading about and he struggles with a feeling of unworthiness although he is handsome, accomplished, and has a job at which he is skilled. The story is set in a town in North Devon, near two rivers, the Taw and the Torridge that run into the Atlantic Ocean. Matthew and Jonathan live in a house on the estuary they got at a bargain price because it might be obliterated in a flood. The isolation suits Matthew but Jonathan is gregarious and popular; in fact, Matthew is constantly amazed someone so confident would be attracted to him. This insecurity threatens to derail Matthew from the hunt for the killer but ultimately he triumphs.
In this book, even more than her others, I am impressed by the detailed depiction of minor characters, particularly Lucy and her father Maurice, and Jen Rafferty, the appealing sergeant who works for Matthew. I had been angry with Cleeves for a plot development in her Shetland Island series but I suppose I am over it by now. In fact, she was in Greater Boston recently promoting this book and I was disappointed not to be able to attend.
Off the Blog: Enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers in Rye, NY and working on my Nancy Drew paper.
Source: Thanks to NetGalley for this read. Recommended!