Quick Review (read on for full review)
A moody and atmospheric landscape combined with rich and compelling storytelling. A great mystery read with an unconventional yet interesting and engaging main character. I will be reading more of the Vera Stanhope books. 4.5 / 5
Summary (from back of book)
At the isolated Baikie’s Cottage in the North Pennines, three very different women come together to complete an environmental study. Three women who each know the meaning of betrayal.
For team leader Rachel, the project is the perfect opportunity to rebuild her confidence after a double betrayal by Peter Kemp, her lover and boss. Anne, on the other hand, sees it as a chance to indulge in a little deception of her own. And then there is Grace, a strange, uncommunicative young woman with plenty to hide.
When Rachael arrives at the cottage, she is horrified to discover the body of her friend, Bella Furness. It appears Bella has committed suicide – something Rachael finds impossible to accept.
It is only after the next death occurs that a fourth woman enters the picture – the unconventional Detective Vera Stanhope…
‘You’re not frightened of going on your own, are you? It’s only a baby. It’ll not bite.’
(from The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves, pg 463)
I’ve only seen a couple of the TV episodes of “Vera” which are based on these books, but the ones I have seen I found compelling and engaging. So when I came across The Crow Trap by chance, (of course, I was not shopping for books 😉 ) I was more than happy to give it a read.
As I read, I clearly envisaged / could hear the actors from the show (Brenda Blethyn playing Vera; David Leon playing Joe Ashworth) playing their parts in the book. I like it when that happens; I think it illustrates good casting choices and character continuity between book and screen.
The writing and storytelling is very moody and atmospheric, mirroring the landscape the story is set in perfectly. Although the book is a long one – it’s around 530 pages – the story flows well and doesn’t drag. As a main character, Vera Stanhope is different. She is brash and speaks plain. Her appearance immediately puts people at a disadvantage because she is not the person they think she is. She is clever, intelligent, calculating, abrupt and has a no-nonsense way about her. I thought she was fantastic.
I enjoyed how the story was set out. We are given the stories of Rachael, Anne and Grace separately, allowing us to get to know the characters themselves, rather than just seeing what they chose to project outwards. The ending was very good; I had my suspicions about the culprit, but I was nowhere near certain. Of course, there are clues; the author doesn’t hide all the pertinent information until the denouement, you just have to sift through the information.
My only grumble is that we didn’t get to meet Vera herself (unless you consider one brief, strange appearance at a funeral) until 200 plus pages into the story. However, it didn’t not detract from my overall enjoyment of the story as I’ve already mentioned I appreciated the set up. That’s why I deducted half a star from my rating.
Not only do I plan to continue reading this series (the second book is Telling Tales), but having watched every episode of Shetland, which is also based on books by Ann Cleeves, I hope to get around to reading that series too (the first book in that series is Raven Black). I also plan to catch up with the TV adaptations of Vera as well.
Highly recommended to fans of British mysteries, and those who have seen the TV show but have yet to delve into the books.