The novelist Ann Cleeves has enjoyed phenomenal success with her Vera Stanhope series. Stanhope is an English homicide investigator. The 10th book came out last year and the series has been adapted into the hugely popular “Vera” TV series. Her Shetland series consists of eight books set on the Shetland Islands. Those stories have also been transformed into another brilliant TV series, “Shetland.”
A few years ago the author began publishing a third series, the Two Rivers series. Those stories are set in the North Devon region of England where the author grew up and they feature homicide detective Matthew Venn. The first book in that series has already been turned into a television program.
Cleeves just published the third Matthew Venn book, “The Raging Storm.” As the story starts out some residents of Greystone, a fictional North Devon fishing village, are hunkered down at the local pub as stormy autumn weather is kicking up ocean waves along the coastline. It is an insular place, they rarely see any visitors.
Some locals do a double take when a stranger named Jem Rosco strolls into the pub and orders a pint of the local cider. He looks familiar. Some of them recognize him. They have seen him on TV. He’s famous because in his youth he sailed around the world. He went on to become a well known television presenter.
What on earth brought him to Greystone? Rosco is friendly enough but he won’t reveal any details about what brought him there. He’s staying in a local rental property and all he’ll admit is that he’s in the village because he’s going to meet somebody. He won’t say who that person might be.
Next we meet Mary Ford, a volunteer with the local lifeboat service. She’s been called out on a rescue up the coast. An SOS came through from a vessel in a nearby cove. There’s a storm blowing in and that will make any rescue efforts more difficult.
As the lifeboat arrives on the scene they discover a boat anchored in the cove. There is someone on board but he’s no longer breathing. The boat contains the body of the adventurer Jem Rosco. He’s naked and he’s been murdered. Quite mysterious. Time to call in the murder squad.
Matthew Venn and his detectives arrive on scene. Matthew hasn’t been in Greystone for years. He used to go there with his parents. Most of the residents of the village adhere to strict spiritual beliefs as members of a rather obscure religious group. Matthew’s parents are believers.
Matthew was a teenager when he separated from that religion. He is gay, they are intolerant so he split away. This creates tension with his parents. Returning to Greystone evokes complicated memories.
Venn begins the painstaking police procedural process and encounters locals quite clever about concealing histories and their motives. As always, Cleeves is in fine form. This reviewer was delighted by the twisty turns this story took though nearly 400 pages of sinuous suspense.
Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at email@example.com.