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A DETAILED DELVING
on 13 February 2014
A small Northumbrian community is divided about plans for a quarry. Will a field study of local natural habitat help sway opinion? Suddenly a suicide(?), followed by a murder. Enter DCI Vera Stanhope. She is inspired by the concept of a crow trap, where a caged crow attracts another with no chance of escape. If the surviving field study members remain in their cottage, will the killer be tempted out into the open? It is a strategy worth trying, but all could go horribly wrong....
The novel is rich in atmosphere, landscape and key inhabitants thoroughly explored. Throughout is a psychological delving into minds, so many haunted by secrets in their past.
Overshadowing all is Vera herself (she also with secrets). Virtually part of the scenery, and easily mistaken for a bag lady, she is famed for results obtained by unconventional means. Her sudden appearances are designed to disconcert. Her love of a good gossip is not as innocent as it seems. Much tea is imbibed, although she would prefer beer. Here is a truly colourful character, dominant whenever she is around.
Unfortunately, except for a fleeting glimpse, Vera does not really arrive until past page 200, all that precedes conducted at a very slow pace. Although much intrigues, at over 500 pages the novel may represent for some readers a far too leisurely unfolding. ("Telling Tales", next in the series, is at least 100 pages shorter.)
Full marks to all who identified the killer! I was way out.
Despite reservations, recommended - not least for the introduction of somebody so formidable and unusual. It comes as no surprise a television series followed. I look forward to seeing how it compares.