Detective Sergeant Jen Rafferty was attending a party hosted by her neighbor and best friend, Cynthia Prior, where she met Dr. Nigel Yeo. He wanted to talk to Jen in her professional capacity, not at the party, of course, but soon and asked to get her contact information. The next day, Jen's boss, Detective Inspector Matthew Venn, called her and the rest of his team to the rural estate, Westacombe, to investigate Dr. Yeo's death. Nigel's daughter, Eve, lived and had a glass-blowing studio at Westacombe; the owner had hosted many working artists over the years, and she had been expecting her father to visit that morning. But when she opened her studio in anticipation of his arrival, she found his body lying in a pool of his own blood, dead from a shard of glass from one of her hand-blown vases stabbed into his neck. As she was also one of the artists associated with the Woodyard Centre, she was a friend of Matthew's husband, Jonathan, the director, who steps in to comfort the distraught young woman. At the same time, Matthew begins to plan the course of the investigation, all the while worrying about keeping his home life and professional life separate.
Dr. Yeo, a patients' advocate working to improve the delivery of health services by the National Health Service, had been angry and upset when last seen at the local hospital the day before his death, but no one there could come up with a reason for his agitation. But the investigation revealed he'd been looking into the several different issues that could have caused his ire. Before much more can be discovered, a second murder occurs, this time at one of the studios at the Woodyard. Using the same method of murder and a shard of glass from another one of Eve's creations, a vase from Westacombe, the sadistic killer lures Eve to the Woodyard studio so she can make the shocking discovery of another victim.
The Heron's Cry is the excellent second book in author Ann Cleeves' Two Rivers mystery series. The police procedural features Detective Inspector Matthew Venn, Detective Sergeant Jen Rafferty, and Police Constable Ross May, a homicide team with the Devon and Cornwall Police. Venn, the team leader, is a thoughtful, gentlemanly, and skilled detective fairly new to his position but a local having grown up in the area. He thinks Jen Rafferty is the best detective with whom he's ever worked. Jen has been at the station for five years, having relocated from Liverpool with her two children after divorcing an abusive husband. Ross May is a newlywed and the station's DCI, who had been almost a second father to him growing up, is the inspiration for his career. Somewhat like an overgrown and very active puppy, Ross often feels like he could be doing more, given better assignments, and sometimes feels that he's being held back.
The North Devon setting, most specifically the area near the confluence of the two rivers, the Taw and the Torridge, creates a definite mood for the book. I look forward to each mention of the marsh, dunes, and cliffs overlooking the ocean. In The Heron's Cry, it is the height of the summer season, and the heat and humidity affect everyone in the story. The influx of tourists headed to the coast for a beach holiday adds to the investigation's difficulty.
Jonathan Church is a major presence in the story as both the director of the Woodyards and as Matthew's supportive spouse. I love that he is so socially at ease with everyone, particularly Matthew's unpredictable mother, and that he is quietly working to bring mother and son back together. Matthew secretly worries about the future when he will be responsible for his aging mother's care, a valid concern for many, including many readers.
The resolution of the murders is attained step by step. Readers follow along with everything the detectives find out. Some clues are in plain sight much as they are in real life, and the astute observer will get a feel here and there for what has happened. However, there are several possible routes things can take and a number of good suspects. A couple of rabbit-out-of-the-hat tips seal the deal for the detectives solving the crime, but the reader is not privy to these until the killer is revealed. But, they happen quickly, so you don't have to wait long. I was entertained rather than feeling fooled. I was pleasantly surprised to have correctly picked up on a couple of clues, but I completed missed some as well. The natural mental participation in the action of the story kept me hooked from start to finish.
I quickly and easily became quite engaged in the lives of the three main characters. I wanted them all to succeed and solve the crimes, and I worried right along with them about the impact the time requirements such a case would have on their personal relationships. I like how the author has created these three people with quite different personal situations while revealing that all face the same struggle to maintain the right balance between work and home.
So far, the Two Rivers series is the stuff of what book hangovers are made. I liked the characters so much I found myself still thinking about the story days after finishing both the first and second books, and, of course, I'm already looking forward to more. I recommend THE HERON'S CRY to fans of Ann Cleeves' previous works, police procedurals, and mystery readers who enjoy a rational investigation with good solid police work, and thoughtful, caring yet strong male and female protagonists.
Ann Cleeves--New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows--returns with the extraordinary follow-up to The Long Call, in the Two Rivers series, soon to be a major TV series too.
North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder--Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter's broken vases.
Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He's a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.
Then another body is found--killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.
DI Matthew Venn returns in The Heron's Cry, in Ann Cleeves powerful next novel, proving once again that she is a master of her craft.