The Crow Trap: The First Vera Stanhope Mystery

by Ann Cleeves

Hardcover, 2017





Minotaur Books (2017), 544 pages


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Scorbet
A proposed new quarry causes three scientists - Rachael, an expert in birds, Anne, a botanist and Grace, a mammal expert - to be called in to do an Environmental Impact Assessment on the site. The three women are staying in a cottage near the site. However, on Rachael's arrival at the cottage, she finds one of the neighbours, Bella, an old friend of hers, had committed suicide in a barn. A couple of weeks later, Grace is found murdered. Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope is called in at this point.

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.
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LibraryThing member Condorena
Rachel, Anne and Grace are all scientists evaluating the wildlife and the habitat of the area soon to be purchased by a quarry concern. All three women have faced difficulties in their lives but now are drawn into a web of murder, betrayal and deceit. Then enter the bag lady who turns out to be Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope. She is female Frost, except there is a great deal more characterization in Cleeve's work than Wingfield's.… (more)
LibraryThing member Romonko
I became interested in this very unique and picturesque woman detective after watching the PBS series. When I found the first book in the series at a wonderful used book store, I had to buy it. Vera Stanhope is a wonderful fictional character. And Ann Cleeves does a fine job of drawing this character as well as the many other strong characters in this book. I loved the setting as well - Northumberland, England and Ms. Cleeves descriptions of the countryside and of the North Pennines are very realistic. It is an area of England that I'd love to visit some day. This is a detective story that is certainly different than your run-of-the-mill detective stories. It is complex and detailed and punctuated throughout with Vera's unconventional style of investigation and her acerbic personality. This was a book that was a pleasure to read. It was a novel that kept me fully involved and immersed in the wonderful story that Ann Cleeves has created. I can't wait to read the next book in this truly engaging series.
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LibraryThing member Olivermagnus
The first book in the Vera Stanhope series begins with sections about three women who are staying at an isolated cottage in the North Pennines of England. Rachael, Anne and Grace are conducting an environmental and ecological review which will be used to determine whether or not the area can be developed into a quarry. When Rachael arrives at the cottage she discovers the body of close friend Bella Furness, who appears to have committed suicide, a verdict Rachael refuses to accept.

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.
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LibraryThing member EadieB
Book Description The Crow Trap is the first book in Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope series -- which is now a major ITV detective drama starring Brenda Blethyn, VERA. Three very different women come together at isolated Baikie's Cottage on the North Pennines, to complete an environmental survey. Three women who each know the meaning of betrayal ...Rachael, the team leader, is still reeling after a double betrayal by her lover and boss, Peter Kemp. Anne, a botanist, sees the survey as a chance to indulge in a little deception of her own. And then there is Grace, a strange, uncommunicative young woman, hiding plenty of her own secrets. Rachael is the first to arrive at the cottage, where she discovers the body of her friend, Bella Furness. Bella, it appears, has committed suicide -- a verdict Rachael refuses to accept. When another death occurs, a fourth woman enters the picture -- the unconventional Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope ...Also available in the Vera Stanhope series are Telling Tales, Hidden Depths, Silent Voices and The Glass Room. Ann Cleeves' Shetland series (BBC television drama SHETLAND) contains five titles, of which Dead Water is the most recent.

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.
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LibraryThing member sianpr
1st outing for Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope. Police procedural set in the North Pennines - OK but thought this crime procedural was overlong and we aren't introduced to the main character, Vera Stanhope, until well into the story.
LibraryThing member diana.hauser
THE CROW TRAP by Ann Cleeves is the first in the Vera Stanhope mystery series. I was prompted to begin this series after reading Ms. Cleeves’ Shetland series. I am a huge Ann Cleeves fan.
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.
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LibraryThing member smik
Debut novel in the Vera Stanhope series. In the Northern Pennines there are plans to open a new slate quarry. Three women are employed to conduct an environmental survey. Bella Furness, whose cottage holds right of way to the site of the quarry, commits suicide and shortly afterwards one of the women involved in the survey fails to return home. Vera makes her first appearance at Bella's funeral and then is the investigating officer when the missing woman is found murdered. Ann Cleeves has created an intriguing character in Vera Stanhope. She is the sort of detective who more or less does as she pleases, very hands-on. There are many twists in this, keeping me guessing until the end.… (more)
LibraryThing member brangwinn
Being introduced to Vera Stanhope in her first mystery was a delight. Vera’s not your normal police detective. She’s fat, she’s sloppy, she’s actually the kind of person I’d like to invite over for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake to hear more about her. Despite first impressions, she solves her cases, even convoluted cases like the one in The Crow’s Trap. Vera needs to have her own BBC tv series, she’s that original.… (more)
LibraryThing member VictoriaJZ
I am addicted to the TV show 'Vera' and thought I would start her series. It took me awhile to get into this, as she first told one character's story, then the next, then the next...until she finally weaved them all together when Vera became involved. But it was an effective method and I enjoyed this first book in the series and hope to read more.… (more)
LibraryThing member Icewineanne
I had read many good reviews about this author, so being a lover of British mysteries, I decided to give her book a try. Well I was not disappointed, what a great read! This is the first novel I had read by Ann Cleeves and it won't be my last. It is also the first book in the Vera Stanhope detective series. She is not even introduced until you have read 2/3 of the book but the other characters are so fascinating that you don't even notice. Before I had even finished this book, I ordered the second one in the series, Telling Tales, from amazon. I can't wait to read it. While I'm waiting for it to be delivered, I'll have to content myself with other authors. Prior to this book, I had read novels by various Scandinavian authors. I found that these books were too dark and depressing for me. If you enjoy interesting characters, and a good puzzle all wrapped up neatly in the end, then you will find this an enjoyable crime novel. This is the best new author I have read in the last 5 years. I'm surprised that it took so long for me to find her!… (more)
LibraryThing member thornton37814
Three women engaged in environmental concerns live together in Baikie's cottage in Northumberland. Rachel's close friend Bella commits suicide. Rachel wants to find out why Bella was driven to this deed. Much of the plot for half the book sounds much like a soap opera. When one of the three women is murdered, we finally meet Inspector Vera Stanhope. While the soap-opera-like drama continues, Stanhope investigates. The plot's multiple layers provide something for most readers. Aging detective Stanhope is likable, but provides a slightly different look and feel to a detective than what is usually found in the genre. Once Vera made an appearance, I began enjoying the novel more, but the lack of crime and long introduction put me off a bit initially. I plan to continue with the next installment, but I do hope we don't need to wait so long for a crime and detective. I listened to the audio version narrative by Anne Dover. I enjoyed the narration.… (more)
LibraryThing member fionaanne
Plodding. That is the most apt single descriptor I can think of for this book; it just seems to go pointlessly for the longest time without anything happening and, by the time Vera finally showed up, I was feeling irritable about how long it took to get going. Its very well-written; if I had a lot of time to kill, I might have enjoyed the slow plodding through the story but there are far too many other books on my shelf.

Thank you to St, Martin's Press who were kind enough to send me this free copy for review.
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LibraryThing member -Eva-
A seemingly standard environmental survey turns deadly and Vera Stanhope is assigned to solve the crimes. I picked this up because I like the author's Shetland series and I wanted to read the book before checking out the TV-series. It's a bit of a slog, unfortunately, and Vera didn't even show up until well into the book, so I had a hard time grounding myself. Perhaps I'll stick to reading Shetland and watch this one on the telly.… (more)
LibraryThing member SheilaDeeth
The lives of various women intertwine in this tale of ecology vs business, secrets vs privacy, and mystery in the northern Pennines. Each woman has a tale to tell in this novel, told from several different points of view; but not every woman survives to reveal all. And so the mystery grows, under shadow of hills, and guarded by crows. The real-world crow trap invites its prey with a captured bird. But who is prey and who is predator here?

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.
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LibraryThing member erinclark
Starts out rather slow and a bit confusing but ends up being an enjoyable murder mystery. Recommended. Especially recommend the audio version, the narrator did a great job.
LibraryThing member Andrew-theQM
This was an interesting introduction to the Vera Stanhope series, who is rather a unique character. It encompassed an interesting mystery that threw in a number of twists. I didn't work out who the guilty party was until just before the end of the book. I look forward to reading on in this intriguing series.
LibraryThing member Ameise1
Exciting entry into a new series. I've seen some of this on TV. While conservationists are investigating an area, as a quarry is about to be built there, people close to the conservationist die. Every death is suspicious and it is uncertain whether it is murder, suicide or natural death. Relatives of the dead are as suspicious as members of the management of the quarry. DI Vera Stnhope investigates in an unorthodox way. It also counts on the amateur detectives that can be found among the conservationists.… (more)
LibraryThing member SquirrelHead
I like police procedurals and I had rather thought this would be something like DCI Banks by Peter Robinson. It isn’t, however I found myself very interested in the plot, character development as well as the descriptive writing style.

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.
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LibraryThing member gbelik
This is the first Vera Stanhope mystery. I like the Vera in the book better than the Vera in the TV series. She seems more interesting and eccentric in the novel. She doesn't appear until about half way through the book. The other characters are also full developed and the mystery held my interest.
LibraryThing member susandennis
I have long been a Vera fan on TV. I only recently became aware of the books that started the tv! Fascinating. The pace is exactly the same. Slow and comfortable and engaging. I'm delighted there are so many more books to read. It's like having a guaranteed lifetime supply of the best house slippers in the world.
LibraryThing member hobbitprincess
I have enjoyed not only the Shetland series novels by Cleeves but also the TV show associated with this book, Vera. This is the first of the Vera Stanhope novels. The mystery itself is intriguing as only Cleeves's books can be. Since I have seen the TV show, I was a little disappointed in that Vera finally appears halfway through the book, and frankly, I didn't warm to her at all, unlike the on-screen character. I am confident, however, that as I go through the series that I will come to love her somewhat caustic personality just as much as I have by viewing the show. Cleeves always writes the best mysteries!… (more)
LibraryThing member caanderson
I enjoyed the twists and turns in the story. The characters were interesting especially the lead police detective. The back and forth keeps you guessing until the end.


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