Book review: The Long Call


For the first time in 20 years, Ann Cleeves –international bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows– embarks on a gripping new series.
In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

An astonishing new novel told with compassion and searing insight, The Long Call will captivate fans of Vera and Shetland, as well as new readers.


“. . . he could hear the surf on the beach and the cry of a herring gull, the sound naturalists named the long call, the cry which always sounded to him like an inarticulate howl of pain.”

With these words Ann Cleeves sets the scene for her first book in the Two Rivers series. When I read these words I thought myself clever. I thought it was a clue to who the killer was. Silly me. I had duped myself. But these words do foreshadow what is to come. The characters in The Long Call have gone through indescribable pain. — The guilt over having caused the death of an innocent. Rejection and loss of family because of sexual orientation. The list goes on. — Yet in this world most hold their secrets dear. They are not always kept to hide shame or escape retribution. For some secrets represent freedom, independence, being grounded in your own truth. “He was so sympathetic that she was almost tempted to confide in him. To confess. But she’d grown up thinking that secrets were sometimes all she had, so she just shook her head.” “We all need secrets, just to keep sane, to feel that the world doesn’t own us.”

In the end I did not find myself drawn to the character of Matthew Venn as much as I thought I would. As a married gay police detective who grew up in a fundamental evangelicals sect Venn is a totally original character. I should have been intrigued. But I do not fault the book for this. I found Cleeves to be a skillful and insightful writer. Maybe I have an albatross tattooed on my neck. For the life of me I am struggling to focus. Reading is typically my outlet but in these times my anxiety is ramped up in high gear. A book that would normally take me 6 or 7 hours to read is now taking days. All in all, I would like to revisit Cleeves’s work after this crisis has passed.

Special thanks to Minotaur Books for access to this work.

About the Author

From her webpage: “Ann Cleeve’s books have been translated into twenty languages. She’s a bestseller in Scandinavia and Germany. Her novels sell widely and to critical acclaim in the United States. Raven Black was shortlisted for the Martin Beck award for best translated crime novel in Sweden in 2007. It has been adapted for radio in Germany – and in the UK where it was a Radio Times pick of the day when it was first broadcast Radio adaptations of Raven Black and White Nights have both been repeated. Ten series of Vera, the ITV adaptation starring Brenda Blethyn, have been shown in the UK and worldwide, and series eleven was due to begin filming in April 2020, although this has been delayed because of the coronavirus; there have also been five series of Shetland, based on the characters and settings of her Shetland novels, and another two have been confirmed.”

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