Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Sleeping and the Dead by Ann Cleeves

Title: The Sleeping and the Dead
Author: Ann Cleeves
ISBN: 9781932859416, Bloody Brits Press, 2007
Genre: Police Procedural
Rating: C
Source: Amazon

First Line: Peter Porteous walked to work.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Porteous couldn't really handle the stress of big city policing, so he moved to a small village where he could walk to work and carefully structure his life to avoid as much turmoil as possible. Unfortunately the countryside is going through a period of drought. The level of Cranwell Lake lowers to the point where a body is uncovered. Porteous soon identifies the body as that of Michael Grey, a teenager who went missing thirty years before. But instead of speeding the investigation, the identification of the body only creates more mystery.

I first came to the books of Ann Cleeves through the excellent Raven Black, the first book in her Shetland Islands quartet. Then I read A Bird in the Hand, the first George and Molly Palmer-Jones mystery, and then The Crow Trap, the first Inspector Vera Stanhope mystery. I was beginning to think that Cleeves could do no wrong. And although she doesn't do much wrong in The Sleeping and the Dead, compared to her other books, this one hits a bit of a sour note.

The sour note has almost everything to do with the main character, Peter Porteous. Perhaps it was a mistake to portray him as a bit of a washout from a city police force. He's a fussy man who loves to keep to a certain schedule throughout the day. He believes that overtime is unnecessary during a murder investigation, and his true sleuthing strength lies in finding the small clues and details that are buried deep in the paperwork. Not exactly exciting or particularly cerebral. Peter Porteous does know his own limitations, and he is better suited to the life of a small town copper.

There's really nothing wrong with this book. The characters are well-drawn as is the setting, and the mystery does need to be unraveled. It's a very competent book, and that shows the brilliance of Ann Cleeves-- that a very "competent" book is nowhere near her best!


  1. It is interesting that even the works of excellent crime fiction writers vary so much.

    Like you, I love her other series, but your description of Peter Porteous doesn´t really appeal to me either.

  2. My mystery book group is reading RAVEN BLACK for June. I'm looking forward to the whole quartet that Ann Cleeves has written. I probably won't pick this one up. Too many others to get through. :-)

  3. Well, everyone is entitled to a less-than-wonderful effort once in a while. I am intrigued by her Shetland books (which I learned about through you).

  4. Dorte-- I've never come across an author yet where I loved every single one of his/her books.

    Kay-- I know exactly what you mean!

    Beth-- They're wonderful books. I hope you give them a try.


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!