The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves is the second in a new series she has written which is set in Devon. This author has two very well-known series, each of which have spawned successful TV programmes and I understand that this new series will also be televised. I have only ever read one of the Vera series, set in Northumberland, and I didn’t enjoy it although I have seen a couple of the TV episodes and they were well done. I am, however, a great fan of the Shetland series about which I write here and here although I have still not seen any of the TV series which is based on it.
The Heron’s Cry is a sequel to the first book in this new series The Long Call. They are set in Devon and their main character is Matthew Venn who is a detective. These are mainly police procedurals but the author and his husband and their friends are part of the story too because the crimes are close to home. In this second instalment a local man is killed in an artist’s community by a large piece of glass from a vase blown by his artisan daughter. And then there is another murder which has the same technique but seems unconnected.
This is a well-crafted crime novel with the story slowly unravelling as the police, and the reader become privy to secrets held by the characters. Matthew Venn is a man who grew up in a very religious household and who has been excluded from his family and background because of his sexuality. He’s a man who isn’t easy to know and is closed off from other people although his husband is gregarious and open. I did find Venn a bit bland in places but he is methodical and careful in his methods and his character acts as a contrast with the drama around him.
I found that the scenery and landscape of the area is well described and important in the stories. This reminds me of the crime novels of Kate Ellis which are also set in Devon – you can read my review of one of them here. I prefer the books of Ann Cleeves but they both have an excellent sense of place.
I am enjoying this new series and I liked this volume. I like the way that the author features the work of Venn’s husband with people with a learning disability and how a young woman from this group is important in both books. I have noted that some readers have been unhappy about the main character being gay and that they think that it is merely a nod to diversity in order to make the books more politically correct. I don’t get that feeling when I read them as I think that the author has fully thought out Venn’s background and the effect that his sexuality has had on him and that this is very much part of the story – there are plenty of crime novels out there with no gay characters for those who prefer their world completely straight.
I recommend this new series from Ann Cleeves. I am enjoying it as much as I did the Shetland series.