‘The Heron’s Cry’ – Two Rivers #2 by Ann Sleeves – a little disappointing

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder–Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed. His daughter, Eve, is a glassblower, and the murder weapon is a shard of one of her broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

I enjoyed the first book in this series, ‘The Long Call’ so I had been looking forward to ‘The Heron’s Cry’, Maybe my expectations were too high but this book disappointed me.

It had many of the same strengths as ‘The Long Call’: calm, low-key storytelling; a strong sense of place; a well-rounded ensemble cast of police officers and their families and a set of unusual but believable characters to form the victim/suspect pool.

I settled into the first third of the book quite happily. As time went by, I began to lose sympathy with the book. It seemed to go on for too long. It pursued so many possibilities that it began to feel undisciplined and unfocused.

I stayed with the book because I enjoyed the characters and then I was three-quarters of the way through the book and three deaths in and it seemed pointless to abandon the book.

The ending is tense and well-described but would have worked better if it had occurred an hour earlier.

The most disappointing thing about the book was that, when I found out who the murderer was, I didn’t believe it. I don’t mean that it was a ‘Ta Da! Bet that surprised you!‘ flourish of the kind Christie sometimes indulges in. I mean that I was unconvinced. The logistics seemed improbable. The motive was lazy. The worst thing was that, in a book so heavily dependent on well-drawn characters, I’d seen nothing in the character’s behaviour that even hinted at the ending.

Even so, it wasn’t a bad book, just a disappointing one. If it had been the first book in the series, I wouldn’t have read a second. I will probably read ‘The Raging Storm’, the third book in the series when it comes out in September because I’m interested it the ensemble cast but I’ll be going into it with lower expectations this time.

I recommend the audiobook version of ‘The Heron’s Cry’. Jack Holden’s narration increased my enjoyment of the book. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

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