First Sentence: Vera swam slowly.
It’s not every day a police inspector finds a dead body sharing a sauna with her in a hotel health club, especially when that body is of a murder victim. Vera and her team work to find a killer in a village filled with people, and their secrets.
From the very first paragraph, one is caught up in the author’s voice; her dry humor and the character. By the end of the first chapter, on is also caught up in the story.
There is so much one could say about the characters, particularly Vera. How nice it is to have a female protagonist such as Vera. She’s a mature woman, overweight and unconcerned about her appearance—except, not totally unconcerned. She does care about being fair to her team, knows what motivates each of them, and is a very good leader; even though she drives them hard. She’s respected by her colleagues, even when they frustrate her. The relationship she has with Joe, her sergeant, is an interesting one…”Sometimes Vera though he represented her feminine side. He had the empathy, she had the muscle. Well, the bulk.” Even with the suspects, she doesn’t just investigate clues, but motivations; what makes people do what they do, what drives them.
Cleeves has a very interesting style. Although the story is told in 3rd person, when she focuses on Vera, it switches somewhat to first person as we gain insight on her life and character through an internal monologue and her observations…”These days, people expected senior female officers to walk straight out of “Prime Suspect.”
There is a very strong sense of place and wonderful descriptions. Particularly appealing is the contrast between the town and the desolation of Vera’s home. It’s very much part of her character.
Although the story is character driven, it certainly doesn’t lack for plot or suspense. We’re given plenty of characters with motives, nice red herrings and plot twists. “Vera” is currently a television series done by British ITV, and very well done it is. The only way I knew the villain in the book was having seen the episode. Otherwise, it really wasn’t obvious.
“SilentVoices” is a thoroughly engrossing read. It’s not a book you’ll put down and come back to later. Cleeves is a wonderful author who should be much better known to American readers.
SILENT VOICES (Pol. Proc-Det. Insp. Vera Stanhope-England-Contemp) – VG+
Cleeves, Ann – 1st in series
A Thomas Dunne Book for Minotaur Books, 2011