Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves has become one of my favourite writers this year and Silent Voices is one of the best crime fiction books I’ve read recently. Although it’s the fourth in her Vera Stanhope series it’s the first that I’ve read. I did watch some of the TV versions of Vera earlier this year but I missed this one, so the plot was completely new to me.

Synopsis (taken from the back cover):

When DI Vera Stanhope finds the body of a woman in the sauna room of her local gym, she wonders briefly if, for once in her life, it’s a death from natural causes. But closer inspection reveals ligature marks around the victim’s throat…

Doing what she does best, Vera pulls her team together and sets them interviewing staff and those connected to the victim, while she and colleague Sergeant Joe Ashworth work to find a motive. While Joe struggles to reconcile his home life with the demands of the job, Vera revels being back in charge of an investigation. Death has never made her feel so alive.

And when they discover that the victim had worked in social services – and was involved in a shocking case involving a young child – it seems the two are somehow connected.

But things are rarely as they seem . . .

My view:

When I began reading I could visualise and hear Brenda Blethyn as Vera, but gradually that impression faded away and the character of Vera began to take shape in my mind from the words in this book alone. Vera is a truly eccentric individual, intelligent, single minded and dedicated to her job, single and with no family responsibilities. She finds it difficult to delegate and is exhilarated by her job. In the following extract she has phoned Joe late at night:

Her voice was loud. She’d never really got the hang of mobiles, yelled into them. She sounded as if she’d just woken up after a good night’s sleep. Murders took her that way, invigorated her as much as they excited the pensioners he’d spent all afternoon interviewing. Once, after too many glasses of Famous Grouse, she’d said that was what she’d been put on the Earth for. (page 67)

The other characters are equally as well- defined. As well as creating memorable and individual characters Ann Cleeves conveys a strong sense of place bringing the Northumbrian countryside, towns and villages to life as I read. The plot is nicely complicated and although I had an inkling about the killer I was wrong, but looking back I could see where I’d been misled. Silent Voices is an excellent book, one that kept me turning the pages and exercising my brain.

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pan (16 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330512692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330512695
  • Source: Library book
  • My Rating: 5/5

7 thoughts on “Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

  1. I’ve watched the brilliant TV series but not read any of the books. It sounds like I should. I know AC is a good writer as I’ve read several of her Jimmy Perez books and loved them. I also have the first in her birdwatcher crime series to read at some stage.


    1. Cath, I like the TV series, but this book is much better than the episodes I’ve watched (albeit I missed this one!) I’ve read all the Jimmy Perez books too and loved them. I don’t know the birdwatcher series – must look out for them!


  2. When I saw Ann Cleeves talk earlier this year (she was lovely), she said the Vera books were more standalone, so diving in at number four should have been fine. Having said that, I always try to start at the beginning of a series whether or no they’re standalone, so have the first Vera in my TBR – one for the New Year perhaps.
    Merry Christmas Margaret – hope you and yours have a marvellous one.


    1. Thanks Annabel, I should have said that I had no difficulty working out who was who and their relationships – ‘Silent Voices’ really does work well as a standalone.


  3. Margaret – I’m very glad you liked this as much as you did. I like Cleeves’ work very much too, both this series and her Jimmy Perez series. I think her settings and character development are top-notch so I’m especially pleased you saw that in the novel too.


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