It is the first book in the Vera Stanhope series. A rarity for me to actually start at the beginning. I have not seen the tv series either, so went into it not really knowing what to expect. Two years ago I read Cleeves’ Raven Black which I enjoyed, despite seeing that episode earlier. You could say I was mildly optimistic.
Unfortunately, I was to be proven wrong this time. The story is told by three women that arrive to isolated Baikie’s Cottage to complete environmental survey. Just before their arrival a woman from a neighboring farm, Bella, commits suicide. She is found by Rachael, the leader of the environmentalists, who also thought she was Bella’s friend.
Shaken Rachael welcomes Anne, a loud, opinionated botanist fully enjoying her life, and Grace, a very quiet, awkward and withdrawn zoologist. The three women are responsible for assessing the environmental impact of the quarry, that is to be built nearby.
Bella’s death has mostly shaken Rachael, who refuses to accept that she didn’t see Bella’s suicide coming. As she digs into Bella’s past she will learn how little she knew about her friend. Then a murder happens close to Baikie’s Cottage and now all of them are shocked. Here enters Vera Stanhope.
Clearly written to be one of those ‘larger than life’ characters. Vera is big, harsh, often loud and hardly respectful. She leads the investigation in her own eccentric way. Clearly not always putting the safety of her witnesses first.
The book starts really slowly. The build-up takes forever and frankly, I found it a bit boring. And too wordy for my liking. Vera appears almost halfway through the book. I think I could warm up to her, but she wasn’t given enough space to develop beyond a few cliches and a rushed backstory. That was because all the space and air in the book has been stolen by one of the most annoying characters I came across in a while, Rachael. What a whiny, self-centered, self-righteous, pretentious creature! I really wished she was the next victim! she ruined the whole book for me. I think i shall be a bit more hesitant about Ann Cleeves books in the future.
Have you read anything else by Ann Cleeves? Which one of her books would you recommend?