Sunday, November 27, 2016
THE MOTH CATCHER by Ann Cleves
This is my first Vera Stanhope mystery and I can assure you it will not be the last. Cleves has given us almost an anti-heroine yet so affecting that she wins us over almost immediately. For me, it was refreshing to find a female detective who was not gorgeous but a bit on the hefty side, one who had difficulty getting up out of low chairs. It’s impossible not to relate to her. Also, I was delighted to learn that Vera is available in a PBS series - cannot wait to see her! As if Vera herself were not enough she’s accompanied by two sidekicks - Holly and Joe, two carefully drawn characters who are as different as night and day. Each is very appealing as their personalities are revealed.
The Moth Catcher is richly atmospheric as the English countryside is described down to blades of grass. Patrick Randle, a graduate student, has come from London to Northumberland to house-sit for a wealthy family, the Carswells, who are visiting in Australia. When his body is found by the roadside Vera is first on the scene. Much to everyone’s surprise when the authorities go to search Patrick’s room they find the body of a middle aged man - Martin Benton, a computer expert. What in the world could Benton and Patrick have in common save for an interest in moths?
Vera’s eye is caught by a nearby area called Valley Farm, a barn and farmhouse has been converted and is now home to three retired couples - Nigel and Lorraine Lucas (their home is a show place), Professor John O’Kane and his wife Janet who was once a social worker, and Sam and Annie Redhead who once owned a successful restaurant. Their daughter, Lizzie, who has always been a problem and is now in jail but soon to be released after serving time for embezzling from her employer. The three couples usually get together on Friday evenings to party and oft times drink too much. Sound like six folks simply enjoying retirement? Not quite.
When a third person is found murdered Vera becomes convinced that the answer to these killings lies with the residents of Valley Farm, but who and why?
Thanks to author Cleves Vera is a character who is fascinating to follow as her thoughts and actions are revealed. We understand her loneliness and admire her perspicacity as we often smile at her fruitless attempts to find answers. She is human in every sense of the word, and so very likable. As if creating Vera were not enough Cleves is a master at building suspense, and I found myself turning pages long past my bedtime unable to wait as Vera carried me to a surprising denouement.