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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’, 10 May 2014
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This review is from: The Crow Trap (Vera Stanhope) (Paperback)
‘The Crow Trap’ (1999) by Ann Cleeves is the first novel I’ve read by that author and I was highly impressed. The first half reminded me of classic novels such as ‘The Moonstone’ (Wilkie Collins) and various 18th century epistolary novels (e.g.’Humphrey Clinker’ by Tobias Smollett) in which the reader discovers characters through each other’s eyes. In effect, this part of the work is kaleidoscopic.
It opens with the suicide of Bella Davison (but is that her name?) and the subsequent meeting of her work associates Rachael, Anne and Grace. I’d been drawn to the book by the TV series ‘Vera’ and instantly recognised my heroine in an uncredited appearance at a funeral on P.62 – ‘...a woman in her fifties, The first impression was of a bag lady, who’d wandered in from the street. She had a large leather satchel slung across her shoulder and a supermarket carrier bag in one hand. Her face was grey and blotched. She wore a knee-length skirt and a long cardigan weighed down at the front by the pockets. Her legs were bare. Yet she carried off the situation with such confidence and aplomb that they all believed that she had right to be there.’ She appears, tweaks the reader’s interest and disappears, like so much else in the book. She also, like Christie’s Poirot, has a deplorable tendency to eavesdrop; for Poirot this had been a point of criticism and I’m tempted to see it as a weakness in this book.
The lives and backgrounds of Rachael, Anne Preece and Grace Fulwell are described over the first 220 pages with Grace’s death mentioned on P. 81 but ‘murder’ isn’t specified till P. 231 - just after the arrival Inspector Vera Stanhope who thereafter dominates the book, even though for much of the time she’s ‘off-stage’. This is a beautifully crafted novel in which the reader is gently dragged backwards and forwards through time. Men tend to form a background to the FEMALE protagonists and they appear to possess differing natures - nasty (Peter Kemp), scheming (Neville Furness), weak (Jeremy Preece)and muddled (Godfrey Waugh). Can any of them be the killer or is it a powerful woman (like Edie Lambert) who muscles in on the action? Beware some of these paths suddenly disappear and leave the investigating reader with a dead end.
A word of warning to the reader. Try to read this novel in as few sessions as possible. I didn’t and so the killer’s exposure came as a surprise. I’m sure the clues are there but with the doings of a collection of individuals both then and now, sometimes interacting and sometimes not, can become confusing – as well as fascinating.
All in all, however, I would award ‘The Crow Trap’ five stars.
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