This one begins with Vera returning home from work to find her "hippy-dippy" neighbor, Jack, waiting for her in her parlor. He is distressed because his wife, Joanna, has disappeared. Even though she left him a note saying that she needed a break and would be gone for a few days, she didn't say where she was going and he hasn't heard from her since she left a few days ago. He wants Vera to find her.
Well, that proves easy enough. Vera contacts the taxi driver who picked her up and learns that she went to Writer's House, a country retreat where aspiring writers go to attend lectures and workshops and polish their stories. Vera goes to the Writer's House to check on Joanna and let her know that Jack is worried. As luck would have it, her arrival at the retreat coincides with the finding of a dead body in the glass room.
The body is that of Professor Tony Ferdinand, one of the instructors. Vera is informed that the murderer has already been apprehended and they are holding her for the police. It is Vera's neighbor, Joanna, who was discovered near the body with a bloody knife in her hand. In spite of that evidence, Vera is skeptical. She calls in her team and they begin their investigation.
Vera is excited to have a murder to investigate because "everybody loves a murder".
They loved the drama of it, the frisson of fear, the exhilaration of still being alive. People had been putting together stories of death and the motives for killing since the beginning of time, to thrill and to entertain.Vera fears that she will be removed from the investigation because of her relationship with one of the suspects, but she appeals to her superintendent and he leaves her in charge.
Cleeves is an extremely skillful plotter and all of the necessary clues are woven into the narrative, but they are so subtle and integrated into that narrative that I defy any reader to identify them and solve the mystery before the end. Moreover, there are several plot twists, the first murder is not the last, and the reader/detective must be very nimble to keep up.
As in all of the books, one of the most enjoyable features is the relationship of Vera to the various members of her team and the way she manipulates and uses them, especially her sergeant, Joe. Cleeves' characterizations paint masterful portraits of Vera and the team and she allows us to eavesdrop on the interior dialogues of Vera and Joe which gives added depth to their relationship.
The book reminds one somewhat of Agatha Christie. It is a traditional country-house mystery in the best sense. Ann Cleeves is a worthy inheritor of the Christie mantle.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars