Ann Cleeves has a new detective: Matthew Venn. Precise and almost fussy, Venn grew up in a strict evangelical community in North Devon. After leaving this community, he becomes a police officer. His parents refuse to speak to him, and Venn thinks that he has left the community far behind.
And when he gets a call that a dead man has been found on a beach, stabbed, with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, he doesn't expect that this crime will drag him back to the religious community he abandoned long before. Or that the crime links to the arts center that his husband runs. Or the tragic story that explains the man's albatross tattoo ...
There's an interesting detective trio of Venn, the clever and brassy Jen Rafferty, and the brash rugby-playing bro Ross May that I'm interested to see how Cleeves develops in future books, as they are still somewhat two-dimensional at the moment. (Sadly, Venn is the most two dimensional - I'd rather have followed Rafferty or May.) There were also a satisfying set of false leads and clues as Venn, Rafferty, and May unravel the identify of the man with the albatross tattoo and how a series of other crimes led to the man's murder, although I'd argue she might not have been quite fair with the reader in the final reveal. And the pace of the book was plodding at points - I ended up racing through the last quarter or so in order to be done with the book.
Overall: 3 Sherlocks. Well plotted and with plenty of well-thought out twists, but I personally had a hard time getting into this book - for me, it was good, but it didn't set me on fire. But some of Cleeves' other series took a little while to get humming (I think the Vera books, in particular, are stronger later on in the series, as you fall in love with Vera and her crew). So I am interested to see where she goes next with Venn, Rafferty, and May - there is some potential with them, and there's certainly enough here for some television writers to breathe life into another BBC series.
I received an advance review copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.