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4.7 out of 5 stars386
4.7 out of 5 stars
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D.I. Vera Stanhope knows her stuff, she actively engages in her cases, but she follows her intuition too. She has built up a small, select team around her on whom she can rely: Detective Joe Ashworth is her sidekick, upon whom she can really depend and Holly is her glamorous assistant, who simply wants to know she is doing things right. But Vera struggles to know how to handle her. These two women are afterall chalk and cheese, one young and pretty, the other older and struggling with her weight and alcohol consumption, gauche at times, uncomfortable with overt intimacy, but her wealth of experience, authority and instinct are the great assets that help her manage her team. She is very much in the business of: “Clearing unpleasantness from the streets so that respectable people could continue their daily lives in blissful ignorance”.

A Metro train (Newcastle upon Tynes’s subway) comes to a grinding halt due to the snowy weather conditions, the passengers are decanted into buses, but one passenger remains seated. Joe and his daughter happen to be travelling in the same carriage and his daughter goes over and discovers that the woman, who turns out to be Margaret Krukowski, is in fact dead. Investigations show that she is a wonderful and caring woman, living in a lodging house in Harbour Street in fictional Mardle where she helps the owner Kate. But a sense of mystery around her past keeps knocking on the investigating team’s door… and when there is a second murder, Vera has to up her game.

This is a well thought out and easy to follow police procedural – No. 6 in the Vera Stanhope series – it deftly peels away the layers of the story and revisits clues (with a few red herrings along the way), without overworking the point.

This is a terrific novel to read if you are visiting the North East of England because it brings the area to life – observe the characters in the centre of town, Northumberland Street, past Fenwick Department Store (the original shop was founded in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1882, the second is in London, established in 1891), and journey down to the Sage, the Baltic and over to the amazing Lit and Phil - even New Look at the Metro Centre, Gateshead, gets a look in (no pun intended). And atmosphere is further created with a smattering of local jargon and characters that you can visualise on the streets of the area.
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on 12 May 2016
Fabulous - one of Ann Cleeves best books - so many possible suspects - great ! Possibly if you are as clever as Vera you could work it out. Great atmosphere - you feel you know the street it is mostly located on - most of the action takes place on Harbour Street.

However you almost wonder how many more things happened among those characters and on that street ! I think Ann Cleeves is hiding something else in there !!

Great book - even better than Thin Air which is another recent read from Ann Cleeves.
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I found this one of the most engrossing of the Vera Stanhope series. There is a powerful atmospheric quality and here more than in most of Ann Cleeves’ books the characterisation is deep and subtle. In her world of “closed room mysteries” Ann Cleeves has few rivals. I have some doubts about the character of Vera Stanhope, but there is so much delightful detail and so many red herrings that I was drawn deeper and deeper into the story.
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Couldn't wait for the new Ann Cleeves "Vera" novel to reach my Kindle, and once it arrived, I'd devoured it in 24 hours. I'd been looking forward to reading it for ages, and I'm pleased to report that I'm not disappointed at all! This is an excellent return for Vera, the overweight, single, nosy woman, a lonely and flawed human being herself, who is skilled in listening to the stories both true and false that the characters she is investigating weave about themselves. This story begins with Joe Ashworth and his daughter Jess travelling home from central Newcastle on the Metro on a snowy evening in December. Jess discovers the body of an elderly woman on the train. The woman, Margaret Krukowski, lived in a Guest House on Harbour Street in Mardle, helping the owner to run her business, and helping at The Haven, a women's refuge, not far from Mardle in her spare time. However, Margaret's life was not as straightforward as it first appeared, and the residents of Harbour Street, many of whom had lived there for years are less than enthusiastic about digging up the past. This is classic Vera territory and also vintage Ann Cleeves. I love Ann Cleeves's Shetland novels partly for their sense of place, and this novel, set in small Northumberland town near the end of a Metro line has a similar brilliant evocative atmosphere. Although I've never been to Shetland, the area around Newcastle upon Tyne I know very well and can vouch for the veracity of the descriptions of the landscapes and weather that play an important role in this story. However, it is the cast of characters who play their parts against this backdrop which brings the story to life. The regulars from the previous Vera novels are developing nicely, and Ann Cleeves also gives us a range of believable people connected to the investigation of Margaret Krukowski's death. Like all good detective fiction the plot twists and turns before it reaches its final destination, with plenty of red herrings and false leads before the truth is revealed. If you enjoy well-written carefully plotted detective fiction with a real sense of place, and you haven't tried Ann Cleeves before, then I urge you to do so. I've written in a review of one of her earlier books that she can really give the currently "in vogue" Scandinavian crime writers a run for their money, and this new book reinforces my view. An excellent read - now how long have I got to wait for the next book?
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on 19 July 2014
A really good story but at the conclusion was a bit too contrived and obscure.

Harbour Street itself and the characters living there were very real in a bleak way, well portrayed with the poignancy of the approaching Christmas festivities - reminded me of John Harris's "Hallelujah Corner" where real people live difficult lives.

A good read.
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on 30 December 2014
Not bad, but too many red herrings. Is everyone on harbour street a devious individual with a dark secret? I didn't warm to Vera either, the main detective on the case, a bit too smug for my liking. Yes, I kept turning the pages and I was surprised at the id of the killer, but I have read many more skillfully plotted, subtle and less contrived books than this one.
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on 17 June 2015
A 'who dunnit' that sustained interest to the end. I was introduced to Ann Cleeves through the Shetland series, and find the Vera Stanhope books equally well written but Vera herself, whilst an engaging character, just a tad implausible as a serving police inspector. I'm sorry, I don't write lengthy synopses of the books that I review, why spoil the plot?
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on 24 May 2014
I love Vera Stanhope. She is what she is and doesn't care about appearances. These books always keep me reading to the end and the next in the series can't come quickly enough for me. The Vera books always have a good plot, twists and curious characters. The story line in this one is substantial, credible and complex. A real page turner. Loved it.
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on 28 August 2014
Up to the usual Ann Cleeves high standard and another well thought-out novel in a very interesting crime series. My only criticism would be that it was slightly spoilt for me as I had already seen this episode on TV. However, it was interesting to make the comparison, and have no hesitation in recommending the Vera Stanhope series.
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on 21 August 2014
I finished reading this latest Vera book in the early hours of this morning. I'm glad I resisted the urge to watch it on TV a while back (although I have recorded it). Silly idea to release on TV ahead of publication, especially when an earlier title The glass room does not appear to have been shown (unless I missed it).
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