Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves: A review

Another excellent Vera Stanhope Mystery. This is the fourth in the series and they just keep getting better.

The overweight and out-of-shape Vera who likes her drink maybe just a little too much has recently had her annual physical and the "child doctor" told her she needed to make some lifestyle changes. That couldn't have been much of a surprise, but what kind of changes can Vera tolerate? She tried yoga but found that her mind wandered and she couldn't concentrate on the downward-facing-dog. She settled on swimming. It was something that she sort of enjoyed and she could fit it in before work every day. Or as often as she chose. She joined a local health club at an out-of-the-way hotel where she wouldn't run into any colleagues and committed to doing ten laps - well, more nearly eight - in their pool each day. Then, a few minutes in their steam room and a latte and she was good to go. But then one morning she found another woman seated in the steam room. When she looked more closely, she realized her companion was dead.

Natural causes? Of course not! A close look revealed a ligature mark on the neck. The woman was strangled. Vera has a murder to investigate. Who needs swimming laps? She is in her glory!

The victim was Jenny Lister, a middle-aged social worker who lived in nearby Barnard Bridge with her eighteen-year-old daughter Hannah. Digging into her background, searching for a motive for the murder, Vera and her team discover that Jenny had a connection to a notorious case involving a mother who drowned her son. She was the supervisor of the social worker who worked the case, Connie Masters. After the child's death, Connie was sacked and recently she had moved with her young daughter to a community near Barnard Bridge. Suspicion falls on her as one person who might have resented the victim, but Vera isn't buying it. And then the situation is complicated by another murder, this time of a young man who worked at the hotel. What did he know that led to his murder? 

The story is told by a third-person narrator, primarily from Vera's perspective. We also are privy to Vera's unfiltered inner dialogue which is depicted in the book in italics (although her public dialogues have minimal filters as well). Occasionally, the narrator also gives us the perspective of Vera's sergeant, Joe Ashworth, and her DC, the very ambitious Holly Clarke. Another detective, Charlie, and the crime scene manager, Billy Cartwright, round out the Stanhope team. She is hard on them, but they recognize that, as Cartwright at one point expresses, she is the best detective they've ever met. 

It is great fun to follow as this team fans out to gather the information that will eventually add up to a solution to the crime. Vera has a problem with delegation and so she works right alongside her team in gathering that information. In the end, it all comes together in the middle of a disastrous flood as Vera and Joe rush to try to prevent yet another murder. Good stuff and highly entertaining.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars    


  1. Replies
    1. I am enjoying reading them in order, but the stories don't really depend on the previous books. I think they would work well enough as stand alone novels.

  2. Replies
    1. She is a unique character who marches to a different drummer. One that only she hears.

  3. Sounds like a very interesting book!

    1. If you like mysteries featuring unique characters as the detective, it's a terrific series.


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