Review of Ann Cleeves’ The Long Call


Forthcoming release – September 3, 2019

Reading Ann Cleeves’ latest novel, The Long Call, the first in the series Two Rivers, brought me back to Shetland Islands. I watched the series on Netflix and absolutely loved it though it did take me a bit to get used to the dialect and language. It is the same with The Long Call. Set in mostly North Devon District (England) The Long Call revolves around Detective Inspector Matthew Venn and his team’s investigation into the stabbing murder of Simon Walden who is found on the beach by passerbys. The story like those set in the Shetland Islands weaves through the populace of North Devon and other nearby parts, as pieces of Simon Walden’s life and his reason for moving to North Devon, a village of sorts in the outskirts of Barnstaple, a larger town, is uncovered by Venn and his team.

Along the way, Venn’s life from childhood as a son to parents who belong to a religious sect (The Brethren) to the present in a world removed from that as the spouse of Jonathan Church becomes entangled in this murder. Jonathan is the founder/manager of the Woodyard Centre, a haven for those with learning disabilities and for those who take master’s level classes in art. Simon Walden had been employed in the kitchen, as a chef of sorts, and apparently a great one. While there Simon learns that all is not as it appears at the Woodyard Centre, that some in its early history are guilty of covering up a heinous sexual assault on one its former Downs Syndrome attendees. Because of his own sins in the past, Simon seeks to unmask the perpetrator, who none would believe had done it as well as those on the board of the Woodyard who paid off the attendee’s mother. Their rationale? Keep the story out of the media for fear of negative public reaction that would endanger Woodyard’s viability back in the early days. However, their real purpose is revealed – to protect themselves and their own reputations at the cost of others. As the investigation progresses, these same people seek to cover their trail back to Simon Walden, committing other crimes including kidnapping other attendees, one of which Simon had befriended in the attempt to uncover what had happened. It is a story of cat and mouse though sometimes it is hard to tell who’s the mouse and who’s the cat.

Besides the intersection of religious fundamentalism, day-to-day life of a family and the raising of children, the care and development of those with learning disabilities (from mild to severe), and gay marriage, Cleeves also adroitly explores single motherhood through DS Jenn Rafferty and the day-to-day politics in a police force where one member (DS Ross) is viewed by others as having a leg up or advantages that are the not the result of merit, but favoritism and how this favoritism affects and acts on Venn’s leadership.

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.