I’ve just finished Ann Cleeves’s latest, Silent Voices. I really enjoyed the Shetland Quartet which I discovered last year, long after every other mystery fan had read them. Silent Voices features Cleeves’s other series character, Vera Stanhope. Vera is another loner cop. Overweight, unhealthy, lonely, she lives in the house her father left her but he seems to have taken delight in putting her down so her self-esteem is pretty low. Except at work where she knows she’s a great detective.
Vera’s doctor tells her to lose weight so she joins a health club at a local hotel & swims laps. When she finds a dead woman in the sauna, Vera & her team investigate. Jenny Lister was a social worker who seemed to have no enemies but she did have a connection to a notorious case when a woman drowned her son. Was her death related to the case? As Vera & her team investigate further, it also seems that there could be a connection with the health club where Jenny died. Security at the club was very lax & several suspects were there on the day of the murder.
Another subplot also explores the aftermath of the child abuse case. Mattie Jones had drowned her son because her boyfriend had left her. She was so besotted with this man that she thought he would come back to her if her son was gone. The man has a history of choosing younger, vulnerable women & when Jenny Lister discovers that he is living with another young woman, she may have tried to interfere & roused his anger. Then there’s Connie, the young social worker supervising Mattie who lost her job & after little Elias died. Connie was pilloried in the media after Mattie’s trial & she & her daughter have endured the gossip & the loneliness of being ostracised. Did she resent Jenny’s role in her dismissal? When Vera discovers that Connie now lives in the same village as Jenny Lister, she thinks she’s found motive & opportunity. But has she?
Vera’s a great character. She’s funny, direct, vulnerable, can’t delegate, & alternately infuriates & inspires her DS, Joe Ainsworth. Silent Voices is an involving novel with enough subplots & shady characters to keep the reader guessing until the end. I’d like to read the earlier books in the series & I hope we get to see the recent TV series, Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn.