Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

Title: The Crow Trap
Author: Ann Cleeves
ISBN: 9780330389983, Pan Books, 2001
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Vera Stanhope mystery
Rating: A

First Line: Rachel turned off the metalled road, then stopped with a jerk.

In the North Pennines on Black Law Farm is an isolated cottage, Baikie's Cottage. Businessmen want to open a quarry nearby, and three young women are using Baikie's as a base for the environmental study they must conduct. When Rachael, the team leader, arrives at Baikie's, she discovers the body of her friend, Black Law Farm owner Bella Furness. Apparently Bella has committed suicide, and Rachael finds that impossible to accept. And when the next death occurs, a fourth woman arrives at Baikie's Cottage: Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope.

Sometimes a writer branches out into different series with varying degrees of success. Ann Cleeves is one of those writers whose books I enjoy regardless of the series of which they're a part. Cleeves' Shetland Quartet is how I first became acquainted with her talent, and once I discovered that she'd written other series, I had to try those as well. If you'd like to take a look at her other series, go to her website (which is hyperlinked at the top of this review) or check out her page at Fantastic Fiction.

The Crow Trap starts out at a very deliberate pace. All three young women are introduced and their back stories are given while the plot advances. The area around Baikie's Cottage feels closed off, overcast and claustrophobic, as do the young women themselves. The atmosphere itself is rank with secrecy. It's not until page 230 of The Crow Trap that Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope makes her formal appearance:

She was a large woman-- big bones amply covered, a bulbous nose, man-sized feet. Her legs were bare and she wore leather sandals. Her square toes were covered in mud. Her face was blotched and pitted so Rachael thought she must suffer from some skin complaint or allergy. Over her clothes she wore a transparent mac and she stood there, the rain dripping from it onto the floor, grey hair sleeked dark to her forehead, like a middle-aged tripper caught in a sudden storm on Blackpool prom.

Not your usual inspector, is our Vera. Her mother died while Vera was still quite young, and she grew up with her bird-obsessed father, living with him until his death. Vera still lives in the family home close to the railway. From her many treks across the moors with her father in search of birds and other wildlife, Vera has learned the value of patience, of standing still and quiet, of observing, of listening. These skills are all put to good use during an investigation in which everyone has something they want to remain hidden.

I was in the perfect mood for this book. I wanted something with atmosphere and detail, something that unfolded slowly and steadily, something that had marvelous characterizations. Once again, Cleeves has exceeded my expectations, since I not only read a marvelous book but gained a new inspector to follow.

If you're in the mood for English mysteries with plenty of plot and personality, it would be difficult to find an author better at delivering the goods than Ann Cleeves.


  1. I am so glad you enjoyed this! Vera Stanhope is an amazing and colourful protagonist, and I hope we are going to hear more of her in the future.

  2. Cleeves does do atmosphere very well Cathy. I just read my first (her second) of the Shetland books. I felt as if I was on the Islands

  3. An English mystery with atmosphere and great characters? Sounds perfect!

  4. This is why I read your blog. You keep introducing me to authors I've never heard of before but are so compelling. Thanks.

  5. A new series to look for! Thanks (I think)!

  6. Oh no, another book I want to find and read! Have you no pity? My shelves runneth over.


  7. A new to me series -- and between you and Dorte and Bernadette, I see that I'll have to give it a try.

  8. Oh dear! We feel soooo sorry for you, Beth ;)

  9. Dorte-- I think the series stands at three now, and I will be very disappointed if there are no more!

    Bernadette-- I know what you mean, for when I read those Shetland books, I feel as though I'm there, too.

    Kathy--It was!

    Margot-- You're very welcome!

    Jenclair-- You're welcome!

    Barbara-- I have no pity whatsoever! LOL

    Beth-- Yes...just call us the Gang of Three.

    Dorte-- At least Kerrie didn't join in and make it the Gang of Four! ;)

  10. I have never read an Ann Cleeves book! I've just added her name to my list of authors to check out at the library. Inspector Vera Stanhope definitely sounds interesting.

  11. Caite over at ...a Lovely Shore Breeze was just raving about this same author (but different book) and now you are too. That is a sign I think!

  12. gosh..I was going to say the same thing! lol
    It seems Ms. Cleeves has anothr inspector I need to check out beside the very good Jimmy Perez.

  13. Belle--Vera really is very interesting. Ann Cleeves is one talented lady!

    Jenners-- It certainly seems so!

    Caite-- It would be interesting to see what you think of our Vera. She's a very special character.

  14. Not a writer I know at all, but one I think I'm about to discover. Thank you.

  15. I am adding this to my list right now! Great review!

  16. TT-- You're welcome. She's an author I hope you'll enjoy.

    Stacy-- Thanks!


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