The Moth Catcher (Vera Stanhope)
by Ann Cleeves
Cover Artist: Moth by Ilbusca / Getty Images;
House by Paul Moore / Arcangel;
Landscape by Karen Mathews / EyeEm / Getty Images.
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250105424
Date: 04 October 2016 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
As Detective Inspector with the Northumberland and City Police, Vera Stanhope rules her staff with an iron hand. Described as a fat, middle-aged woman with a temper and a short fuse, she cares deeply about solving crimes. She's surprisingly good at extracting information from witness and those who knew the victims.
In this police procedural, Ann Cleeves portrays the intricate relationships between Vera and her staff as they solve the murders of two men. Vera cares about her staff, but often fails to acknowledge their contributions. Her deputy DC Joe Ashworth is loyal in the extreme while DC Holly Lawson feels ignored and unacknowledged. Both make major contributions to identifying the killer, but it is Vera's astute observations, persistence, and knowledge of human behavior that solves the case.
In The Moth Catcher, the discovery of a dead man in a ditch sets off a murder investigation. It is soon followed by the discovery of another dead man in the first victim's lodgings. Identifying the victims and how they were linked takes a lot of effort. Eventually it emerges both were interested in moths. Neither had links to any of the nearby residents.
The setting for the crime is near the expensive Valley View development where three couples live and constantly interact at their parties on a regular basis. Some of them begin to find the intimacy wearing. One couple has a young daughter currently on a prison farm and is about ready for release. They believe they must reveal this information about their daughter to the others. The imprisoned woman had embezzled money from the developer of Valley View.
Vera questions whether this picture perfect community is as the residents portray because she senses swirling undercurrents. They all claim they didn't know either of the victims. Yet something must link the place and the people to the killings.
It is unlikely most readers will identify the murderer until the end of the novel. The language rings true to Northumberland and needs no translation. This is the seventh Vera Stanhope mystery. The novels formed the basis for the ITV series Vera.