In the marshlands of North Devon, along a neighboring beach, the body of a man has been found. The cause of death is a stab wound to the chest. There’s little on his carriage for positive identification, except for one unique physical marker: a tattoo of an albatross on his neck. This was a man with a shadowy past. A man who carried a burden. Could that burden have played a part in his murder? Detective Matthew Venn and his team have been assigned to the case.
The Long Call, marks the introduction of a new series from one of the masters of crime fiction, Ann Cleeves. In the character of Matthew Venn, Cleeves has created a protagonist that is complicated and guarded; noticeably strained yet duty-bound. Not unlike the man who’s murder he’s intent on solving, Matthew is a man with a past. He, as well, carries a burden. As a young adult, he decided to leave the deeply religious sect he was raised in, leading to an estrangement from his family. Matthew’s eventual discovery of his sexuality and his subsequent marriage to a man resulted in a complete severing of the relationship between him and his parents. With the recent death of his father, Matthew finds himself grappling with feelings of guilt and insecurity. If there is a way to bridge the divide between he and his only living parent, his mother’s chilly reception gives him little hope of finding it. But family issues must be put aside for now. There’s a crime to solve, and a host of suspects.
In The Long Call, Cleeves demonstrates, through Detective Matthew Venn, that bravery need not be cloaked in bombast. He moves quietly. Yet he always moves with intention and purpose. Much of the drama in the story generates from what is not said, from the internal battles. A downward gaze. A flushing (or whitening) of the face. A slight pause. The Long Call also tackles relevant issues including systemic patriarchy, and how it’s used to victimize the most vulnerable in society. This was a highly enjoyable read. I would definitely place it in the category of “I couldn’t put this book down!” And if you’re anything like me, you’ll try to solve the case right along with Detective Venn and his team. I’m looking forward to reading more in the series.
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