Ann Cleeves, Telling Tales

I can't remember ever reading this early outing for Vera Stanhope, Ann Cleeves' detective made famous by Brenda Blethyn on television. The first thing I want to say is what a good job narrator Janine Birkett does. Like Blethyn she makes the ever-so-slightly repulsive Vera into an interesting and frequently sympathetic character, complex, shrewd and sometimes a bit wistful. Looking at Birkett's work on IMDB, it's evident that her northern credentials are sound, and indeed, the accents in the audiobook are refreshingly accurate. This means that I would actually rather listen to the audio version than read a paper copy or ebook. Since I now find even my Kindle increasingly tiring to hold, that's a cheering thought.

The plot is, as you'd expect, well-told and tightly constructed. I don't, as a rule, play the guess-the-murderer game, preferring to let the author tell me at their own pace. This tale spun out satisfyingly and I had no urge to rush through it, nor to shout back at it about inconsistencies or implausibilities. That it took Vera off her home ground created added tension, even if she was able to take Joe Ashworth with her. And, like most of Cleeves' books, it dealt with difficult issues in a thoughtful way.

I hope that there will be more from this narrator. Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan UK Audio for an advance copy. This audiobook of Telling Tales will be published on 1 January 2024.


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