First Sentence: Joe pushed through the crowd.
The last think Detective Joe Ashworth expects when taking his daughter Jessie Christmas shopping, is that she will find a dead body on the Metro. Margaret Krukowsky had been a long-term resident at Harbour House, but even those who spent time with her, know almost nothing about her. Only when a second woman dies, do the facts start to come forward, and put Jessie in danger.
How nice to have a story opening at the beginning of the actually story; no prologue. Not only is the setting established, but we also have a sense of the character for one of the protagonists, Joe. And Vera; how can one not like Vera and her no-nonsense style, her self-awareness—“She didn’t take notes at this point. Notes stopped her concentrating.”--and her awareness of, and relationship to, others: “On the platform in the distance she saw Joe Ashworth. Her sergeant and her surrogate son, her protégé. And her conscience.”
One sign of a really good author is when one wants to share passages and dialogue from the book with others. With Cleeves, it’s hard to know where to stop, short of the entire book. It is also very clever of Cleeves to allow us into Vera’s internal narrative, as well as see her from the perspective of others—“…Holly wondered if she’d get a bollocking again for complaining. She felt every contact with Vera Stanhope was like an approach to a large and unpredictable dog. You never knew whether it would lick you to death or take a chunk out of your leg.”
The central character of Vera is fascinating. She is demanding of her team, but loyal to them and realizes her own faults in working with them. It's nice learning a bit more about her childhood. However this truly is an ensemble cast, with each member of the team being significant and dimensional. One appreciates learning their perspective of issues. The combination of characters provides veracity and depth to the story.
It is always nice when a case is solved by footwork, and by following the clues. Mistakes are make, but we always know Vera and her team will get their killer in the end. And isn't seeing justice being done one of the reasons why we love mysteries?
“Harbour Street” is another wonderful book by Ann Cleeves, with a complex, twisty plot, including one major twist at the end. If you’ve not read her before, it’s not too late to start.
HARBOUR STREET: A Vera Stanhope Mystery (Pol Proc-Vera Stanhope-England-Contemp) – VG+
Cleeves, Ann – 6th in series
Minotaur Books – Dec 2015