The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

Macmillan | 2021 (2 September) | 400p | Review copy and Bought copy | Buy the book

It’s a hot summer’s night when DS Jen Rafferty attends a party thrown by her magistrate friend Cynthia. She is approached by Nigel Yeo, a doctor whose role is now to monitor NHS trusts in this part of north Devon. He needs official advice from a police officer but, drunk, Jen is in no state to offer it and so he leaves. The next day Yeo is discovered murdered at Westacombe, the home of a rural community of artists, a shard of glass from a vase made by his daughter Eve in his neck. While Jen struggles with the guilt of not having helped Yeo when he needed it, her boss DI Matthew Venn must unravel the lies that tie this community together and seek out the killer in its midst. But one of the suspects is a close friend of Matthew’s husband Jonathan. This unusual case is about to get very personal, for Matthew and for Jen.

The Heron’s Cry is the second novel in Ann Cleeves’ new series, Two Rivers, which began in fine style with The Long Call. Matthew Venn immediately became one of my favourite literary detectives (along with the author’s other famous creation, Vera). Matthew is a fantastic character. He’s quiet, well-dressed, reserved and infinitely kind and well-loved, not just by his husband but also by his friends and colleagues (except for his boss, of course, who hates everyone except DC Ross May), and it’s good to see them all again in The Heron’s Cry.

Once more, the emphasis is on the people who drive the story onwards, making it an immersive and gentle read. It’s lovely to meet such characters as Lucy again while it’s also good to get to know others better, such as Jen and Jonathan, and especially Matthew. The author takes her time to guide us through the personalities and conflicts of the community of artists, and their relationship with their powerful, wealthy patron Frank Ley.

The locations by the coast in north Devon are wonderful! It’s a hot summer, the beaches are beautiful and full of holiday makers, contrasting with the unhappiness of the artists and the menace of the killer, as well as the stories of despair that Matthew and his team uncover.

I should mention that this is a good example where the author’s foreword should most definitely be at the back of the book. I found it spoilery. Resist the urge to read it!

While it is a little slow in places, perhaps frustratingly so at times, The Heron’s Cry is a very enjoyable read, filled with wonderful characters, and it tells a story that has depth, heart and menace. I can’t wait for the return of Matthew, Jen and Jonathan.

Other review
The Long Call

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