‘The Seagull’ – Ann Cleeves

British whodunit reading more like a TV treatment than a novel, which is fine, I guess…

Your Aunty Gladys would probably dig this book.
Your Aunty Gladys would probably dig this book.

The Seagull (not to be confused with the works of Chekov) is the eighth novel in Ann Cleeves’ bestselling ‘Vera Stanhope’ series, a series about a middle aged detective inspector, and frequently adapted for TV (on screen, the show is called Vera). It would – one might presume – be ‘comfort viewing’ on a Sunday evening. Nothing too flashy, nothing too confrontational. Doubtlessly, there’d be little to no music or sound effects, and the crimes DI Stanhope would be charged with solving would be neatly dispatched by the time the end credits roll around. The weather would be terrible. Recurring jokes would be around the availability of cake. Nothing that happens would, in all likelihood, be in any way surprising or confrontational – satisfying in the way a mouthful of butterscotch pudding is.

One might presume as much (it’s not my scene).

To the plot: DI Stanhope visits her local prison and finds herself face-to-face with a former detective superintendent, now inmate and something of an enemy of Vera’s. The inmate, convicted of corruption and his involvement in someone’s death, is behind bars because of Vera. He promises her information about the whereabouts of the remains of a nefarious local figure, if she will look out for his daughter and grandchildren. Vera goes in with a team to investigate, and – herein the mystery – there are two corpses, not one. Things evolve to hit Vera hard, bringing back the involvement of her departed father. There are layers.

So the book from which we will doubtlessly see a TV adaptation has those same qualities of predictability, of the safe, the relatable, the non-confrontational. Small details other book editors may remove involving décor and biscuits and the scattershot thoughts of the central character – non-sequiturs – building a more detailed picture of who this Vera is. So, as a work of fiction, it’s fine, its satisfying, if this is your brand of vodka.

Now available
Pan Macmillan
Trade paperback

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