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Silent Voices, by Ann Cleeves, Macmillan, RRP£17.99, 352 pages
Silent Voices is the fourth outing for Ann Cleeves’ overweight, eczema-ridden, middle-aged DI Vera Stanhope. Vera is brusque, with “a chip on her shoulder the size of Kielder Forest”, but she excels because her ordinariness grants her access to everyday lives.
When a social worker using Vera’s local gym is found strangled in the sauna, Stanhope is quick to connect her death with a past case that again explores Cleeves’ fascination with the morbid possibilities of water.
Cleeves has a way of making unlikely murders plausible by grounding them in recognisable communities. In this world, neighbours are close-knit, and close ranks. “Why are you here?” asks someone Stanhope interviews about the victim. “I’m talking to the people who knew her,” Vera replies. “That’s all.” The bluntness gives solidity to such police procedurals, which bodes well for the ITV adaptation of Cleeves’ novels due to hit British television screens this spring starring Brenda Blethyn.