Eric Boss reviews THE LONG CALL

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
Minotaur Books

First in a new series by the Dagger Award-winning author of a long list of mysteries and television shows this book introduces a new sleuth: Matthew Venn. He is the estranged son of evangelical parents who has not only cloven away from the Biblical fold but has married well outside of the lines of acceptability. His husband, Jonathan and he have taken a house on the shore in Devon where Matthew has been promoted to Inspector of police. He is assisted by a fiery female detective and a football-playing constable who leaven the refined, sensitive nature of Venn who has had a somewhat delicate upbringing where the evil of the world is concerned.

A murder has occurred virtually on his doorstep and which has leads pointing to the social welfare organization in which his husband works. Both these factors compel him to suggest his recusal from the case, but his superior overrules such considerations and directs him to begin investigating. What emerges is a sinister series of threats and murderous attempts on clients of the Woodyard agency, dedicated to helping those with social, emotional and psychological difficulties. Most distressing to Matthew and everyone else are incidents involving young women with Down syndrome who may be in possession of evidence of the murder.

Balancing on a tightwire of ethics and personal involvement, Venn doggedly pursues the facts and discovers some of the unknown (to him) strengths of his associates, resulting in not only a solution to the crimes but the beginnings of professional relationships upon which the author will no doubt be expanding in the books to come. Many of the familiar and beloved aspects of British mysteries are to be found here as well as some contemporary social issues delicately handled. It is an altogether satisfying mystery with engaging characters and interesting landscape.

Shelf Talker: First in a new series by a veteran award-winning author, we meet Matthew Venn, refugee from an evangelical sect and gay detective thrust into a murder investigation literally on his doorstep. For any fans of British whodunits or lovers of mystery fiction.