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THE RAGING STORM by Ann Cleeves: Book Review

For Detective Inspector Matthew Venn, going home is always difficult.  Greystone is close enough to where he grew up to bring back unhappy memories.  It’s where his parents belonged to the ultra-conservative Barum Brethren, an evangelical Christian group in Scotland he left when he was eighteen.

But, of course, Matt must go where his job leads him, and now it’s to the small village where the naked body of famous adventurer Jem Rosco was found.  Rosco had grown up in Greystone, but since he became a world-wide celebrity, known for sailing around the world solo, trekking to the North and South Poles, and walking up the Amazon, he hadn’t returned.

Then, suddenly, a few weeks before his death, he walked into the local pub, the Maiden’s Prayer, had two pints and left.  But he returned every night after that, saying in response to questions, “I’m here to meet someone….I’m expecting them any day.”

It’s a strange case, Matt thinks.  The lack of blood in the small dinghy in which he was found shows he wasn’t murdered there, so why did the murderer send out a Mayday call to make certain the body was discovered?

Those living in Greystone rarely leave and move to other places, so there are still many people who knew Rosco when he was a small child and then a schoolboy.  They all have a story or an opinion to share with Venn and his team:  Mary Ford, who wrote numerous fan letters to him when she was a teenager and he was already famous; Mary’s father Alan, desperate for funding to send his grandson to the United States for medical treatment that he believes will save the boy’s life; Sammy Barton, who says Jem had a reputation as a “bit of a cocky bastard” even as a teenager; Davy Gregory, part-time taxi driver who picked Jem up at the railway station and brought him to Greystone and whose father was forced to sell the cottage where Jem had been staying; Barty Lawson, commodore of the town’s sailing club who describes the deceased as an “irritating oik” who never quite fit in; Eleanor Lawson, the woman Rosco named his first boat after; and his former wife Selina, who describes him as “a charmer” who believed all his own fantasies.

There is a strong sense of claustrophobia in The Raging Storm.  Some of that is due to the smallness and isolation of the village, and some is due to the hurricane-like storm that is cutting Greystone off from nearby towns.  There is also a sense of an almost inbred community, where families have lived for generations, doing the same work their parents and grandparents did, as well as the overwhelming influence and moral values of the Brethren.  It’s a mix that doesn’t bode well for Matt and his fellow investigators.

Ann Cleeves is a truly gifted storyteller, whether she is writing about Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, or Detective Inspector Matthew Venn.  All three series featuring these protagonists have been adapted for television.  Her characters are true-to-life, her plots are believable, and her settings take readers right to the place where the action is.

You can read more about her about her at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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