One of the Best I’ve Read This Year

My two favorite avocational activities are reading and acting. Reading is something I’ve been doing all my life, and I became an avid reader when I was about eight years old. Acting is something I came to much later in life, not taking it up until I was over fifty. Still, the moment I first stepped on stage and heard the audience applause I was hooked. These two activities have occupied much of my time over the past twelve years, but neither of them are related to my formal education and work.

In my vocation, I pursued a Master’s Degree in Vocational Evaluation and spent approximately twenty years, off and on, working in rehabilitation facilities with people who had a variety of challenges. Over the years I’ve worked with people who had physical challenges, emotional problems and learning disabilities. Even though there were years when I didn’t work in the field, I was always aware of how communities and businesses made themselves accessible, how open they were to inclusion, how sensitive they were to people who might be different from the average individual. As my husband used to say, you could take me out of rehab, but you couldn’t take the rehab out of me.

Now I spend much of my time reading, and it was a joy to find a book that married all my interests…a book that incorporated a terrific mystery, a center for the arts, and an activity center for learning disabled adults. All those components are included in THE LONG CALL,  the newest book by Ann Cleeves. With all these things included, I only hoped it wouldn’t disappoint and wow, was I ever pleased. Below is my full review.

Professional Vocational Evaluator

THE LONG CALL by Ann Cleeve is the first in a proposed series, The Two Rivers. The series features Matthew Venn as the Detective Inspector with supporting characters including his husband, Jonathan, a group of detectives who report to Matthew, and a Chief Detective Inspector who has one foot halfway out the door as he heads toward retirement. Of the detectives who report to Matthew, most of the action takes place between Jen, a fiery redhead with a talent for talking to witnesses and a conflicted home life as a single mother and Ross, a hot-head who longs for activity and chomps at the bit when he isn’t moving.

As the book opens, we learn that a body has been discovered on the shore on the same day Matthew is hovering at the edge of a group of mourners who are there to participate in the burial of Matthew’s father. For his part, Matthew is unwilling to let anyone know he is there, including his mother. His musings and feelings about his family and the guilt he still carries about withdrawing from the conservative religious sect that was central to his parents and which he had left some years before, provide the first insight into Matthew. Interrupting this conflict of emotions is a call from Ross asking Matthew his whereabouts and informing him of the newly discovered body.

From that point on the reader is swept into the activity that initially is centered on discovering the identity of the body and eventually leads them to the Woodyard, a center managed by Matthew’s husband. The center is multipurpose, providing counselling and support groups, art classes and lessons, an activity center for learning disabled adults, and a cafe where the community as well as the participants can enjoy a cup of coffee and something to eat.

As the investigation continues the reader is introduced to a series of suspects who have different connections to the Woodyard. Some of these work at the Woodyard and two of them were roommates of the deceased, while others are connected to both the Woodyard and the religious sect. As the reader moves through the book it becomes apparent the activity center, some of its participants  and Lucy, a young woman with Down’s Syndrome in particular, have an active role in the mystery.

The story is told primarily through Matthew’s point of view, although there are occasional sections that are written from other participants such as Jen, the police detective, Gaby, one of the dead man’s roommates, and Maurice, Lucy’s father. These different points of view flow easily one into the other and serve to help pull the reader through the book. The writing is so well crafted it seemed to leap off the page and land, in full detail, in my mind.

This is one of the best books I’ve read all year and this review is deliberately short on information to allow the reader the pleasure of having the people and places unfold for them in the course of their reading. As the first in a series, it creates anticipation for the ensuing series and  is likely to leave readers anxiously awaiting the next installment. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an Advanced Digital Reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Hope this entices you enough to consider adding this to your “must read” books for the fall. If you love well crafted mysteries with excellent characters drawn so vividly they leap off the page, this one’s for you. Happy reading.