Fat, middle-aged detective Vera Stanhope seems an unlikely heroine. But the dishevelled sleuth has won millions of fans through Ann Cleeves’ gritty crime thrillers, and the TV adaptation starring Brenda Blethyn. In the seventh and latest book, Vera is investigating a double murder in a sleepy Northumberland village.
The victims make an unlikely pair, with one a fresh-faced graduate and the other an older ‘grey man’ – and no obvious connection between the two. There are no gimmicky plot devices here, as Cleeves, also author of the popular Shetland series which has been adapted for television too, shows she is the master of innuendo, smooth prose and deeply drawn characters.
Equally enjoyable is the sub-plot, poking fun at ‘retired hedonists’ in their 60s who party harder than their children. If there is a successor to Ruth Rendell’s alter-ego Barbara Vine, it must surely be Ann Cleeves; she certainly proves it with this humorous, meaty read.