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4.6 out of 5 stars
Telling Tales (Vera Stanhope)
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 20 October 2013
First book I've read featuring Vera Stanhope and I haven't watched the TV series, so no preconceptions about her!

Ann Cleeves weaves a skilful plot around the murder of a teenage girl and the subsequent suicide of the person charged with her murder. I was immediately drawn in; the story pulls the reader in a number of different directions. Clearly there are people deeply affected by tragic events, but who's got what to hide and why? A diverse collection of characters gave real depth to the plot and kept me guessing right the way through. There's a strong sense of location with sufficient description to place events in a real time and place setting, thereby adding to the sense of this. Being a true life investigation. It's a really well crafted story with sufficient pace to keep the reader engaged from start to finish. I particularly enjoyed the psychological probing. Flawed characters just on the 'normal' boundary make fascinating subjects. I found Vera intelligent, likeable and often amusing. She's colourful without being intrusive and her conflicts, both personal and professional made her very believable.

The pace of the thriller really picks up in the latter third of the book as the strands come together and a real sense of urgency builds in the closing pages. Loved it! Have another couple featuring Vera and looking forward to those. Reading this as a standalone worked well. Happy to recommend.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2009
Ann Cleeves is an excellent writer, "Telling Tales" fits the usual quality. A young girl has been murdered, and her supposed killer convicted and sent to prison. As the novel opens the killer who has always protested her innocence commits suicide. Then as a "cold case" Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope moves in, every character in the book comes under suspicion, is cleared and comes under suspicion again. It's a strange skill possessed by Cleeves, but the more she makes the character of the detective unlovable, the more you are drawn to her. Criticisms? Yes and it's a pet hate of mine with female writers and that is the use of first names for characters when such use jars. The lead character Emma Bennett's parents are referred to by their first names even when it's Emma thinking about them, it just doesn't feel right. If you like detective fiction you will enjoy this book, so buy it, curl your feet up, pour yourself a glass of scotch (and another for Vera Stanhope) and enjoy an evening in.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Parole refused, Jeanie Long hangs herself in prison. Now it seems she did NOT kill teen Abigail Mantel ten years ago. How could that original investigation have got it so wrong? Northumbrian Vera Stanhope is drafted into Elvet, East Yorkshire, to add a new perspective to the case. Inevitably many feathers will be ruffled. Meanwhile Jeanie's father is on the warpath....

Deep is the delving into minds of key characters involved, secrets uncovered, including a highly suspicious change of name. As always, rough and ready Vera uses unconventional tactics to wrongfoot those with something to hide. She is the main reason to read, everything perking up when she is on the scene (which some may feel is not often enough).

Because she so dominates, most other characters seem rather shallow in comparison. In fact, I found myself not particularly caring which of them might be the murderer (although the eventual unveiling came as a surprise).

One for those who enjoy a slow paced, detailed atmospheric setting and characters explored in depth. Some may consider this less a murder mystery than a study of minds - what makes people act the way they do.

Many will look forward to more about Vera, she disconcertingly dressed more for comfort than style (occasionally even mistaken for a bag lady). Always plain speaking, she regards Yorkies "a soft lot" and longs to be back on home ground, where she is very much part of the scenery.

Truly here is a force to be reckoned with - best avoided by those with a guilty conscience.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 19 November 2013
A fan of the tv series this was the first Vera book I have read, the books are even better. Would highly recommend.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
"Telling Tales" is a first rate police procedural featuring the intrepid North England Police Inspector Vera Stanhope. In this story, Stanhope is assigned to open an old murder case when new evidence exonerates the young woman convicted of the crime ten years before. The exoneration comes too late for the woman who has just killed herself after being denied probation. As Inspector Stanhope begins the reinvestigation of the original crime, it's clear that many in the small town where the murder was committed have a lot of personal secrets and wounds connected to the crime.

What is especially strong about this novel is author Cleeves' ability to present in persuasive detail the perspectives of the dozen or so main characters in the story. These are all rather complex actors with a host of mixed qualities--many of them firmly founded on the seven deadly sins. The protagonist, Vera Stanhope, of course has her own hangups and issues which are flawlessly conveyed throughout the story. With her own complicated emotional life, Stanhope becomes a kind of "seer" when dealing with the suspects and persons of interest connected to the procedural. To the reader's happy frustration, as the Inspector moves closer to resolving the crime through the dogged pursuit of interviews and evidence sorting, the ultimate resolution remains deftly concealed from the reader until the last few pages of the book.

This is an exceptionally good mystery story, told with intelligence and insight into the problems of family dysfunction and small town living. At the end there is the possibility of redemption and of renewal to balance the saga of human tragedy that underlies the book. iRecommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2013
When new evidence surfaces regarding the murder of a young girl Vera Stanhope is called in to re-visit the original investigation & to see if anybody or anything was missed first time around.
Unfortunately it's too late to stop the suicide of the woman who was found guilty & has been imprisoned for years unable to even convince her own father of her innocence.
But as Vera delves deeper into the lives of those involved in the murder of Abigail, she finds that people are keeping secrets from everyone, even those closest, which only adds to the mystery.
Then......another murder!

This is a really good page turner & I lurched from suspect to suspect all the way through with each new piece of information. Absolutely loved it!

If you've not met Vera before don't expect her to be sexy & glamorous in fact you'd probably call her frumpy. She doesn't think much to chilled white wine, give her a whisky or two any day. She's more Country Life than Vogue with a bacon butty on the side but you can't help but enjoy her company.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Totally gripping I couldn't bear to put this down. Vera Stanhope is quite a character and certainly not in the mould of the usual Inspector in Crime Fiction novels with her excema and messy clothes, habitually calling people "pet". Cleeves' use of italics is comparable to asides in Shakespeare and there's something of the quaintness of an Agatha Christie novel in that in this particular novel there was a lot of evidence in the denouement that the reader wasn't always privy to during the plot's unfolding. Tantalising in the extreme. A wealth of credible characters. First I thought it was this person, then I thought it was that person...........One just had to read on and enjoy the rollercoaster. One tends to forget her sidekick Joe Ashworth but he's a dream.
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In many ways Ann Cleeves is in a class of her own as a British crime writer. Even without the crucial elements of suspense, her books are rich and substantial. She is the natural heir to Agatha Christie as the doyen of the closed room, (tightly knit, small community) crime novel. Her great strengths are plot, characterisation and a keen intelligence. She has an uncanny feeling for human frailties and vulnerabilities and exploits these insights by weaving the most torturous of plots, which nonetheless, because of the solid realisation of the lives of those that people them, are wholly credible.

I came to this book by way of the Shetland novels and the first of the Vera Stanhope novels, “The Crow Trap”. My review of that book (q.v.) was perhaps a little harsh; I found Vera less than wholly convincing, perhaps because she arrived on stage as it were with such a fanfare of trumpets. She never seemed to me to live up to the larger than life eccentric we seemed to be promised. Here, the approach is more low key. She is simply allowed to be and grow into a naturally convincing character. I have not seen the TV series but imagine that a good actress could make Vera a commanding presence, while still communicating her inner insecurities.

A final accolade. It is good to have a crime writer who does not find it necessary to dwell on graphic scenes of sadism, but nonetheless hits hard with the pain and anguish that acts of violence can occasion and that can be the source of such acts too. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 2013
A gritty northern female detective. No glamorous dolly bird here but her rough exterior hides a softer wistful centre. A good read especially for women of a certain age with bits of sex thrown in. Her relationship with Joe is a perfect balance and he complements her character. The plot keeps you guessing with a few red herrings.

The wildness of the north, especially its coast is evocatively described. You can almost hear the wind and smell the sea. I look forward to meeting Vera again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2013
Ann Cleeves writes with realism. Some writers feel they have to cram every page with action and intrigue - but real life isn't like that and Cleeves has the confidence to portray the banality of normal life. She still builds intrigue - I changed my mind throughout the book about the identity of the murderer - and she has a fantastic sense of place. Her descriptions of location are vivid and pull you in very quickly.

A really good read.
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