Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves: A review

I'm finishing up my reading year of 2019 by visiting some of the series that I've been following. This was the year that I started reading the Ann Cleeves Vera Stanhope Mysteries and I've now reached the sixth in the series, published in 2014.

The quality of the writing, plotting, and character development continue to be exceptional for a mystery series. Each book is different and does not follow any particular formula. I am always surprised by the identity of the perpetrator and that was true with Harbour Street, as well. That's true even though I watched and enjoyed the BBC series based on the books.

The action in this book takes place around Christmastime and begins with Vera's sergeant, Joe Ashworth, and his young daughter, Jessie, traveling on the Metro after a trip into town. The train is extremely crowded and loud with holiday shoppers and revelers. When the train is stopped due to bad weather ahead and all the passengers exit to be picked up by buses, Jessie notices that one woman has not left her seat and appears to be asleep. She goes back on the train to wake her and that's how they discover she's dead. She had been stabbed. Joe had not seen anything.

The elegant older woman who had been killed had lived in the town of Mardle in a house on Harbour Street. Vera and Joe and their team investigate and soon discover that the woman had a colorful history that somewhat belied her current appearance. Just days later, a second woman is murdered, and the two victims had known each other and were connected through their association with a women's shelter. Surely the two murders are related, but how? That is what Vera and the team must discover.

As usual, we are privy to Vera's thoughts as she sorts through the clues and what is known about the victims and those associated with them on Harbour Street. Her thoughts also make the associations between the victims' lives and her own solitary and often lonely existence. She is middle-aged, overweight, with an unlovely face, and few social graces. She has no family except her investigative team. Joe is the person closest to her. He is like a surrogate son. He understands her and admires her as the best detective he's ever met and he makes allowances for her failings. It's a prickly relationship but it works for them and for the reader. 

Cleeves is an excellent writer who is able to portray some of the most wretched characters who inhabit these stories with empathy and grace. Moreover, her depictions of the Northumberland countryside and the way of life there are vivid and they ring true. Finishing up the book, I feel as though I've been there and I look forward to further visits in the coming year.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars 

Comments

  1. I have in fact been to Northumberland and can confirm that it is delightful!

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    1. I love reading about and watching television shows set in the area and even though I haven't been there, it has come to seem familiar to me.

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  2. I feel sure I have read this author, but can't remember titles. Thanks for this review.
    Happy New Year!

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    1. I have problems remembering titles as well but her characters are unforgettable.

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  3. Happy New Year Dorothy.

    I like the sound of this book; I think I've tried this author but, without researching her I can't think of the title.

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    1. I think having trouble remembering titles is pretty universal with us constant readers! And a happy New Year to you, Diane, and happy reading.

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  4. Sounds good. Sometimes flawed or unusual detectives really make a mystery story. That seems to be a factor here.

    My wife tends to like this kind of mystery. I will recommend this series to her.

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    1. If she decides to read it, I hope she enjoys it. Mystery series are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me and I tend to read them as palate cleansers between more serious books, or when I need to read but can't necessarily devote a lot of concentration to it. I find Vera to be an excellent palate cleanser!

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