Author: Ann Cleeves –
Publisher: Isis Publishing Ltd –
Genre: Crime, Mystery –
Overall rating: 4/5 –
Writing: 4/5 –
Duration: 14:18 (The Crow Trap), 11:58 (Telling Tales), 10:26 (Hidden Depths), 10:25 (Silent Voices), 10:36 (The Glass Room), 10:10 (Harbour Street), 11:04 (The Moth Catcher), 11:17 (The Darkest Evening) (medium, long) –
Narrator: Janine Birkett –
Narrator/performance: 4/5 –
Impressions: 4/5 –
Performance errors: 1/5 –
Complexity/reading level: 4/5 –
As of 2023, the series about Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope consists of 10 books. There are only 8 audiobooks, however, the missing two being No. 8 and No. 10. This is a well-made, immersive and addictive crime series. It is perfect for a holiday. It will satisfy readers who enjoy varying spoken English accents and a little bit of knowledge about life and culture of the British islands.
The curious fact is that, though all novels are a pleasure to read, being genuine page-turners, they do not tend to stay in one’s head for too long. At least not in my head. The only one I still remember after the months that passed is the “The Darkest Evening”. This novel has a particularly liminal quality which would be difficult to reproduce. It revolves around the notion of falling into darkness, the freezing cold of hopelessness and the indignity of evil. Whether there must be violence involved in the process is open to interpretation. The message is not clear which makes the mystery even more enticing. The narrator’s performance in this part is particularly striking. The production holds some of the most memorable experiences to find in audiobooks (congratulations to Janine Birkett for the stunning performance). The contemplative realm of poetry invades the structured realities of prose, like a gentle storm. Ann Cleeves yet again manages not to cross into horror and to end the exploit on a high note. How exactly she does that is always a puzzle. I believe that the books should be read in order to reach that effect in this special No. 9 but that is up to the reader.
I may revisit the series in the future. Ann Cleeves creates vivid characters which never cease to fascinate and entertain. They are not perfect and, in their imperfection, they manage to make the reader laugh, get irritated or even sympathize. They may be like mechanisms filled with springs and contraptions, perhaps even too responsive at times but it is what seems to produce the desired effect of immersion. It works the trick and is what counts in the end.
The covers are consistent, a rarity in audiobooks, and very much in the style of mystery novels. Nothing to complain about; you would not miss them in an airport bookshop so you will not miss them in an audiobook app. They are what they are and do not promise anything else. Rather on the simple side but that can only be expected in crime novel series. They are not memorable but they do not need to be.
Cover Photo by Adam Rhodes on Unsplash