Three very different women come together to complete an environmental survey. Three women who, in some way or another, know the meaning of betrayal....For team leader Rachael Lambert the project is the perfect opportunity to rebuild her confidence after a double-betrayal by her lover and boss, Peter Kemp. Botanist Anne Preece, on the other hand, sees it as a chance to indulge in a little deception of her own. And then there is Grace Fulwell, a strange, uncommunicative young woman with plenty of her own secrets to hide... When Rachael arrives at the cottage, however, she is horrified to discover the body of her friend Bella Furness. Bella, it appears, has committed suicide--a verdict Rachael finds impossible to accept. Only when the next death occurs does a fourth woman enter the picture--the unconventional Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope, who must piece together the truth from these women's tangled lives in The Crow Trap . Ann Cleeves's popular Vera Stanhope books have been made into the hit series "Vera" starring Brenda Blethyn and are available in the U.S.
The Crow Trap is the first mystery featuring DI Stanhope, who is a fairly unusual detective. She has been described as a female Morse or Jack Frost, which is true to a certain extent. She is not interested in what other people think of her, and is described as looking like a bag lady at one point. She is, however, an intelligent detective, and I look forward to more mysteries featuring her.
The structure of the book is interesting - the first part describes the same events, from Bella's suicide to Grace's murder, three times, once from the point of view of each of Rachael, Anne and Grace. We therefore see each of the women from both their own point of view, and that of the other two. Some of the backstory of each woman also becomes clear in each version. After this, the narration becomes more general, before later focussing on DI Stanhope's point of view.
I was a little surprised at the number of female characters in the book, as it seemed very high. But I was a bit chagrined to realise I would not have found anything amiss if the ratio of male to female characters had been reversed.
The mystery was intriguing, involving as it did the backstory of various characters. The characters were well-drawn and clearly differentiated from each other. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in more character-based mysteries.
Why I picked it up: Female police detectives are still pretty unusual, and it looked interesting.
When another death occurs, a fourth woman enters the picture, the unconventional Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope. Vera is not your usual police inspector. Her mother died when she was still a young girl, and she grew up with her bird-obsessed father, living with him until his death. Vera has learned the value of patience, standing still, and observing and listening. These skills are all put to good use during an investigation in which everyone has something they want to remain hidden.
This book is full of atmosphere and suspense, as well as with a well-drawn cast of characters and a satisfying plot. I've never read a Vera Stanhope mystery before but they are definitely going on my To Be Read list. If you're in the mood for English mysteries with plenty of plot and personality, it would be difficult to find an author better than Ann Cleeves.
My Review This was my first Vera Stanhope book and it did not disappoint. Ann Cleeves is a master of great writing, plot and character development. Her books keep the pages turning until the very end. She keeps you guessing and ties everything up neatly in the end. I look forward to reading the next book in the series. I have also read her Shetland series and enjoyed them very much. I highly recommend her books if you are a mystery/suspense connoisseur.
I realized she was the author of the very popular ‘Vera’ books and that an equally popular British TV series starring Brenda Blethyn was based on the Vera Stanhope mysteries. I had to get started reading!
There is nothing I like more than ‘binge-reading’ a good mystery series.
I liked the book but I didn’t get much of a ‘take’ on Vera Stanhope, as she didn’t appear ‘till half-way through the book. I have read and heard that the following books delve more deeply into the ‘Vera’ character.
Vera lives and works in Northumberland (northeastern England). She is extremely cranky, opinionated, insightful, messy and very insensitive of others. I would have liked more scenes with her long-suffering assistant, Joe Ashworth. I assume he will be ‘fleshed-out’ in later titles.
A great sense of place; a many-layered plot; complex characters; mystery and suspense make this an excellent introduction to a great mystery series.
Three women are hired to complete an environmental study on the countryside where a new quarry operation is proposed. Ann Preece, Rachel Lambert and Grace Fulwell all seem to be brilliant naturalists, but all three are full of secrets, insecurities and somewhat troubled pasts.
There are many questions. What prompted Bella to take her own life? Who is in favor of the quarry? and who is against it? and for what reasons? What connection does Vera have with this area? Where is Grace’s father?
Vera is an excellent listener and is very insightful with others. She particularly understands her home turf and knows that the past often influences the future in very unexpected ways.
I can’t wait to read more of the books in this series.
Thank you to St, Martin's Press who were kind enough to send me this free copy for review.
Ann Cleeves creates her cast of characters and their relationships convincingly and enthrallingly, introducing Vera—protagonist now of her own TV series—very quietly and giving great depth to the character I’d previously only known from TV. Fans of the series will recognize hints but the story’s still vivid and new—after all, the books did come first, and I’m eager to read more.
Disclosure: I wasn’t in the Pennines when I bought this but I wasn’t far away, and I love the TV series.
In the first few pages there is a body discovered, the police are called and then the women get on with their work.
Rachael is the leader of an impact assessment study for an environmental agency, her area of expertise is birds. Anne Preece is the botanist and Grace Fullwell is the mammal expert/zoologist. The impact study is underway as a quarry may be put in and obviously destroy important fauna and flora. The results of their research may well cancel plans for the quarry business.
The book is divided into segments focusing on each woman’s point of view and their perceptions regarding the others. At times they are completely off the mark, not being privy to the otter women’s background.
It surprised me that Detective Vera Stanhope was introduced so late in the story. It also surprised me that we are looking at the investigation/detective work from the perspective of these three women researchers for the majority of the book.
D.I. Stanhope shares much more information than you would expect in a murder investigation. There seem to be a lot of sideline amateur investigations from several of the women. As I said, it wasn’t what I expected but I enjoyed the book very much.
The way Vera is introduced seemed brusque. As she was telling about her past, her father the naturalist, she established she had understanding of the conservation research and what they were doing they are doing.
This was one of the books selected for a group read at the Kindle English Mystery Bookclub. Join in on Goodreads if you like British mysteries.