Book Review: The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves @AnnCleeves @panmacmillan @MinotaurBooks

The Heron’s Cry
The Two Rivers Series #2
Ann Cleeves
Macmillan, September 2021 (CA)
ISBN 978-1-5098-8967-9
Trade Paperback
Minotaur Books, September 2021 (US)
ISBN 978-1-250-20447-9
Hardcover

This is the second book in a new series by Ann Cleeves known for two popular series, both picked up for Television viewing; Vera with DI Vera Stanhope and Shetland with DI Jimmy Perez. This new series is set in North Devon in an area off Bideford Bay where DI Matthew Venn grew up and where the first book, The Long Call, is debuting on television.

In this novel Matthew and his team are called to crime scene at the home of a group of artists. Dr. Nigel Yeo has been murdered, the victim of a stabbing. His daughter Eve is one of the artists. She works with glass and was expecting her father that day to help her with her work but instead she finds his dead body stabbed with a shard of glass from one of her broken pieces.

Nigel Yeo is well known in the area and seems to be the most unlikely person to be a victim of such a horrible crime. Devastated by the discovery of her father and having lost her mother not that long ago she can think of no reason for someone to kill him. Eve is also a friend of Matthew’s husband Jonathan, who runs the local Community Center, and Matthew knows he’ll have to tread carefully in this investigation, sensitive to how it affects the close knit community.

Matthew and Detective Jen Rafferty set out to interview everyone Dr. Yeo has had contact with in the past few months. Dr. Yeo had recently retired and has taken on a few new challenges including looking into the suicide death of a young man with mental issues.

When another body is found, killed in the same way as Dr. Yeo, it would appear someone is trying to point the finger at his daughter, Eve. Matthew and his team are frustrated as they attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding these murders before more deaths occur. Who is lying? Who would gain from these deaths?

This second Matthew Venn mystery is complex and intriguing. The community where he lives with his husband is well known to the author and comes across as a character in and of itself.

Ann Cleeves writes an interesting and enjoyable tale here and with each book the reader becomes more involved with these characters and I for one look forward to another entry, hopefully not in the too distant future.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, October 2021.

Book Review (Audio): Double Duplicity by Paty Jager

Double Duplicity
Shandra Higheagle Mystery, Book One
Paty Jager
Narrated by Ann M. Thompson
Patricia Jager, February 2017
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene is just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever, but just as determined to discover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.

Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Shandra Higheagle literally comes across a dead body accidentally and things begin to happen with meteoric speed for this small town. Actually, the name Huckleberry Mountain Resort is a bit misleading because while “Huckleberry” implies very rural and homespun, this is a ski resort with tourists and money to spare, not to mention multiple art galleries, and the upcoming art show is a premier happening. It’s in Detective Ryan Greer’s best interest to solve this murder quickly and he’s not averse to a little assistance.

Shandra and Ryan are both intelligent, attractive people and the almost instantaneous spark between them is perhaps not surprising. It’s more apparent at first to Ryan than to Shandra but, once she gets it, she’s not entirely above using her “influence” to get away with a bit of investigating on the side. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t always make the brightest decisions and can be accused of a tiny bit of TSTL behavior. Never mind, I still like her and I also like Ryan, especially because he gives credence to the visions Shandra has apparently inherited from her Nez Perce grandmother.

A fair amount of comic relief comes from the very young and very untried police officer, Blane. As so often happens with someone new to any position of authority, poor Blane is overeager and way out of his element with Shandra who can pretty much put him in his place, especially when he’s determined to treat her as a suspect. Blane is a likeable overgrown kid and his enthusiasm helps make up for a lot. The other secondary character who got my attention (in a good way) is Shandra’s hired ranch hand, Lil, who you might say is the female version of the crusty oldtimer.

Ann M. Thompson is a good narrator, giving warm, earthy tones to Shandra and handling other voices with noticeable differences from one character to the next. In particular, I immediately picked up on Blane’s immaturity and brashness just from Ms. Thompson‘s interpretation.

Double Duplicity is the first of eight books in the series but, so far, only this one and the second are in audiobook format. That will not stop me from continuing on with this entertaining series but I do hope more audio editions will become available before too long. Not only do I like Ms. Jager‘s stories but I also enjoy Ms. Thompson‘s narration and that’s a pleasant combination.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

Book Review: Scrafitto by Steve Scarborough

Scrafitto
Steve Scarborough
Dark Oak Mysteries, July 2011
ISBN 9781610090216
Trade Paperback

Welcome to sunny, idyllic Quepos, Costa Rica! The beach is full of tanned bodies, the Pacific Ocean beckons, the mountain scenery includes an active volcano. Just beware of scorpions, caiman, and…murder. In his debut mystery, Scarborough brings blood and violence to paradise. The burden to find the killer falls upon one man who just wants to leave his past behind, but when have you ever seen THAT happen?

Ex-homicide investigator Mitch Sharp is happy doing landscape and tourism photography. He has a few friends and a new love interest. But when someone starts attacking women, slashing bodies and spattering blood, Mitch is slowly drawn in to investigate. His obstacles: a lackadaisical police chief, a gung-ho hotel contractor worried about tourism, his own struggle with anger management, and, most important, no leads. Aided by a group of artist friends, Mitch starts gathering evidence. The attacks escalate to murder and his friends are, one one one, falling victim. Mitch must rely on his skills as a photographer and a former investigator to find the killer.

When an author knows the subject matter, in this particular story, photography/art, the book is that much more interesting. This has a little bit of everything. A foreign locale, scenery, a little romance, unique characters, plus, the all important murder mystery. The descriptions spark the imagination and the action brings you to the brink of tension. Scraffito is a fine first effort by a an author worth keeping your eye on.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, March 2012.
Author of Night Shadows and Beta.