Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

Years ago, I reviewed the first series of the television series Vera. I had quite a few nice things to say about it, and I've kept up with the show over the years and gotten a few other people to watch it too. It's remained a very good show, and I love the fact that the characters have really grown over the years it's been going. You can see the effects of the things that came before. Especially with Vera, she's almost a different person than she was in the first series, but in a very good way.

So since I'd caught up with the show and there was a year before new episodes, I thought I'd pick up the first book in the series. Which I ran into a snag with because it's oddly hard to get in the U.S., but I found a used copy eventually. What's upsetting is that I like to buy series of books together to get matching covers and it looks like that will be really difficult with this one, but that's an aside.

Anyway, it took me a while after I bought it to finally get around to reading it and it was not at all what I expected. Vera doesn't even show up until about a third of the way through the book. I'd waited so long to read it that I'd forgotten entirely about what happened in the episode (a few things came back as I read but not many) and so that was good, I could get caught up in the mystery. As somebody that reads a lot of mysteries, a few plot points were predictable but it was still put together in a way that made it a good story. When I reviewed the show I mentioned that it doesn't fall into the trope of treating the important clue in a way that marks it as the important clue (either by giving it too much or too little screen time). The book does hit that trope a couple times, but I'm not sure how it could have changed that given the format.

There are a few things that I think are interesting, especially as somebody who came in from watching the show first. Vera's character doesn't have much to recommend her in the book really, though she's very interesting and good at her job, the author goes almost out of her way to talk about how unattractive the detective is (which gets old honestly) and how other characters are a bit repulsed by her. I think if I didn't have Brenda Blethyn's portrayal so firmly in my head that might have changed the way I viewed her.

The book actually focuses on the women who are affected by the murder case, by using their points of view to explore some of the same events and so you get multiple ways of describing the same characters. That works really well, even if there were some characters I wasn't as interested in, and a few things that still felt a bit underdeveloped or out of left field.

I was intrigued that DS Joe Ashworth is barely a character here, when he's so important in the series, but maybe that happens in later books. Or maybe he was beefed up for the show, I'm not complaining.

Either way, the book is good, and worth a read. It'll get you through the waiting for the new series of Vera. I can't wait to read the second one.