Review: The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

“The Heron’s Cry” is my first Ann Cleeves, and it most assuredly will not be my last. There’s no reason why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading the prolific creator of the Vera Stanhope mysteries and the Shetland series (among others…) — my only excuse is that I only have so much time to read so many crime writers, and Cleeves slipped through the cracks. Well, no longer.

“The Heron’s Cry” is the second installment in the Matthew Venn series, set in North Devon, where a team of detectives investigate a string of homicides that begins with the murder of retired physician, now chief of a patient advocacy group Nigel Yeo, whose body is discovered by his glassblower daughter in her studio on the grounds of wealthy philanthropist Francis Ley’s home; a shard of her own glass protruding from his neck. Nigel Yeo had hoped to speak to Venn’s colleague, police officer Jen Rafferty, on the night of his murder — but it was a conversation that never happened. 

The action unravels conventionally, but enthrallingly. Cleeves is a natural storyteller; her plot is labyrinthine, pockmarked with red-herrings and false leads, and it unsnarls without distracting hijinks or gratuitous detours. 

“The Heron’s Cry” bounces between the perspectives of the core police trio — Venn, Rafferty, and Ross Pritchard — and we’re allowed insights into their personal lives without the narrative ever getting lost in the weeds. Matthew Venn is a particularly engaging lead, whose husband has a personal connection to the case, but not one that feels overly contrived. 

“The Heron’s Cry” is a first-rate police procedural. Cleeves isn’t doing anything unorthodox, but her clean storytelling stands out in a congested genre. I’ll be back for more — sooner rather than later.

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