Ann Cleeves' Five Mystery Series: Background information when reading The Long Call

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The Long Call

The Two Rivers Series Book #1

by Ann Cleeves

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves X
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2019, 384 pages
    Jul 2020, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Ann Cleeves' Five Mystery Series

This article relates to The Long Call

Print Review

Ann Cleeves (b. 1954) is best known for her mystery novels set in rural Britain, which have sold over five million copies in the thirty-plus years she's been writing. Cleeves has penned four series before releasing The Long Call, the first entry in her new Two Rivers series:

Bird in the HandGeorge and Molly Palmer-Jones (8 books)
Published from 1986 to 1996, these books follow George Palmer-Jones and his wife Molly as they travel throughout the English countryside, birding and solving crimes. The first entry in this series, A Bird in the Hand, was inspired by the author's personal experience. She met her husband, ornithologist Tim, while she was working as a cook in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle. They quickly married. Soon after, according to the author's website, "Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents…If a person's not heavily into birds - and Ann isn't - there's not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing." It's therefore not a coincidence that George is a naturalist and the first dead body he investigates is a murdered bird watcher. Overall these mysteries sold reasonably well, but many fans feel they lack depth.

Inspector Ramsay (6 books)
In 1987 Cleeves moved with her husband and two daughters to Northumberland, which became the setting for many of her subsequent titles. Her next mystery series began with the publication of A Lesson in Dying (1990), and focused on the investigations of Inspector Stephen Ramsay. More of a traditional police procedural than Cleeves' previous series, this set of books is relatively well regarded in comparison to her first, but it is also thought to be of a lesser quality than the author's later endeavors. The last book in the series was published in 1997.

the crow trapVera Stanhope (8 books)
Vera Stanhope may be Cleeves' best-known and most beloved character. Introduced in the 1999 mystery The Crow Trap, Vera is described as "cranky, driven, overweight and middle-aged," and compared to a female Colombo. The detective was something of a spontaneous creation on the part of the author. She was stuck on writing a funeral scene for a murder victim when she was struck by the idea of having a woman detective burst through the door of the chapel and take charge of the situation. "And there [Vera] was," the author has recounted in an interview with Radio Times, "like a bag lady instead of a detective." The book was meant to be a stand-alone novel, but Cleeves liked the Detective Chief Inspector she'd created so much she decided to bring her back, in part because she was annoyed with other authors who only wrote about young, fit, attractive police women. In 2011 the series was optioned for a BBC TV show starring Brenda Blethyn, and it has recently been renewed for a 10th season. The most recent Vera Stanhope novel was published in 2017.

Raven BlackShetland Island (9 books)
Cleeves introduced Inspector Jimmy Perez in the 2006 novel, Raven Black, a complex murder mystery involving the death of a young girl. The book won the inaugural Duncan Lawrie Dagger, the largest crime-writing prize in the world, and the series is widely thought to be the author's best writing to-date. The main character was more planned than Vera. As Cleeves has written, "I wanted a central character who belonged in the islands, but also didn't quite belong. Although Jimmy is a Shetlander, he's also a bit of an outsider. He comes from Fair Isle — the most remote inhabited Shetland island — and I gave him a Spanish name and heritage. There was an Armada ship wrecked off the isle and sixty survivors climbed ashore, so it's not impossible that one of them married a local lass." Like the Vera series, the books were dramatized for a BBC TV show, which ran from 2013 to 2019 and featured actor Douglas Henshall. The book series ended with 2018's Wild Fire.

Filed under Books and Authors

Article by Kim Kovacs

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Long Call. It originally ran in October 2019 and has been updated for the July 2020 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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