Book Review: The Heron’s Cry

The Heron’s Cry (Two Rivers #2)
by Ann Cleeves
384 pages
Expected publication date: September 7, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

The quiet ease of north Devon’s sultry summer is abruptly shattered one morning when Dr. Nigel Yeo is found dead in his daughter Eve’s art studio, stabbed to death with a shard from one of Eve’s blown glass works. Detective Inspector Matthew Venn is called in to investigate and finds few answers. Yeo was well-regarded by those who knew him, and he has no obvious enemies. But a not-so-chance encounter the night before his death and routine police work plunge Matthew and his team into a nest of deceit that threatens to unravel friendships and families. Matters only get worse when another body is found, killed in the same way with another one of Eve Yeo’s glass artworks. As the investigation grows ever closer to home, Venn must find the killer before they strike again.

The first novel of Ann Cleeves’s latest murder mystery series, The Long Call, introduced readers to DI Matthew Venn, a quiet, introspective, and anxious man whose recent marriage brought him home to North Devon where he’d grown up in a conservative religious community that cast him out at age nineteen after he declared that he’d lost his faith. Since then, Venn has laid some old ghosts to rest, while his mother has begun to accept that her only child is a gay man. Meanwhile, other characters’ live have continued with apparently little change, though this new investigation reveals cracks in the foundations. Jen worries that her son spends too much time online; Ross worries about a sudden distance between him and his wife. Venn’s husband Jonathan worries that his extroverted nature is driving a wedge between them. The other people in the story, be they witnesses or suspects, deal with the same issues. Issues that start small and then snowball into something that can destroy a life or a family. 

With her straightforward prose and finely-honed observations of people under stress, Cleeves brings yet another community to life, filling it with a cast of characters who feel like they could live down the street, shop in the same shops, and have the same sorts of worries as any other person. It’s the quiet nature of these ordinary human dramas that makes Cleeves’s mysteries so compelling. While they lack the high drama of, say, a stylish Scandinavian noir or the high stakes of an American serial killer thriller, the Two Rivers novels serve to make our everyday encounters seem unnerving. Grand criminal conspiracies don’t often show up in the average person’s life, nor do sociopathic serial killers who employ intricate means of death. But who hasn’t imagined striking out at that aggravating person next door, or the one who’s always taking advantage of people in small ways, or a needy acquaintance who’s asked one favor too many? Who can say what circumstances will push an unassuming person to commit a horrible crime? Do we truly know our friends? Our families? What secrets do we keep from those closest to us?

The Heron’s Cry is a quiet novel that looks at what’s beneath the illusory calm people show the world. No one quite shows what they’re really feeling– to do so would break down the structure of their community. But what’s bubbling beneath that shiny surface leads to terrible things. It’s these little things, these subtle conflicts and anxieties that turn The Heron’s Cry into a page-turner. You want to find out what happens next, even if it doesn’t seem related to the investigation. Will Jonathan’s need to help people cause Matthew problems with the case? Why is Mel acting strangely around Ross? Will the summer heat cause tempers to fray, leading to even more violence? 

The Long Call was a thoughtful and beautifully observed introduction to Matthew Venn and the community of characters Cleeves has built in her North Devon setting, and The Heron’s Cry is a worthy follow-up, building on the previous story while standing on its own, telling readers a compelling story that will leave them guessing until the final revelation, then make them wonder at their own lives and the secrets they keep.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion.

Purchase The Heron’s Cry at Barnes & Noble,, or Book Depository

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