The Long Call
Two Rivers Book #1
Happy Publication Day
to the Long Call!
Detective Matthew Venn watched his father’s funeral from the periphery. Since he renounced his family’s strict evangelical faith when he was in college, he’s not been in contact with them. But he was startled out of his memories back into his current reality when his office called to report that a dead body had been found on a nearby beach. After a rough period, the man, Simon Walden, had been living with devout social worker Caroline Preece and her roommate, Gaby Henry, artist in residence at the Woodyard Center, a hub of the community containing an art studio, theater space, café, and day center for adults with learning disabilities.
As Venn investigated with the savvy single mother DS Jen Rafferty and young, ambitious Constable Ross May who has uncomfortable ties to the DCI, a woman with Down’s Syndrome who attended the adult day center went missing. Since Simon Walden volunteered at Woodyard, it became a focus of the investigation—difficult for Venn since the visionary behind Woodyard and the current managing director was his husband, Jonathan Church. Just as shocking, Venn received an unexpected call from his mother. The murder and missing girl represented a tangle of secrets involving his past and present selves, and he wasn’t sure he wanted the answers.
The Long Call is the first book in a planned series featuring Matthew Venn who is unlike most detectives in literature. He is gay, which is refreshing, but also refreshing is that his sexual orientation is not an issue except vis-à-vis his family and their conservative religious community, the Barum Brethren. More than that, Venn generally follows the rules and is less a lone wolf than some of the other protagonists in my favorite detective series. He’s also quite insecure and vulnerable making him very relatable but at times maudlin. I enjoyed DS Rafferty because she is tough and outspoken though very empathetic, but at times (though not always) both she and Constable May seemed to be “off the shelf” characters—the brass female sidekick and the young Turk.
The mystery took some unexpected detours, sometimes making such a hairpin turn I was momentarily confused and had to reorient myself and one character felt more like a deus ex machina than an essential element of the narrative, but I found the art center setting interesting and thought Cleeves presented the members of the adult day center with sensitivity. As far as I can remember, I haven’t read books that take place in North Devon, and Cleeves gives vivid descriptions of the towns and landscape of the area. This is actually the first Ann Cleeves book I’ve read, though, so I’m unable to compare this book to her previous work.
The Long Call was engrossing, and I was overall invested both in Detective Venn and the secondary characters and plan to read subsequent volumes in the series. I think it is a good investment for mystery fans.
Thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.