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The Seagull by Ann Cleeves

The Seagull

by Ann Cleeves

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Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope of the Northumbria Police is in her mid-fifties, overweight, and slovenly. On the other hand, she is a shrewd and methodical detective who presides over an efficient, hard-working, and loyal team. DS Joe Ashworth, Vera's prot̩g̩, is torn between spending time with his family and being at Vera's beck and call. DC Holly Clarke is beautiful, brainy, and has terrific computer skills, but lacks a personal touch with witnesses. When Vera's obnoxious boss sends her to Warkworth Prison to lecture the inmates, John Brace, a disgraced former police superintendent serving time for corruption, decides that Vera may be able to shorten his sentence. He tells Vera that if she agrees to lend a hand to his troubled daughter, he will reveal where a missing man's body can be found.

John's revelation rejuvenates Vera, who has been bored of late. She reopens the long dormant case of Robbie Marshall, who disappeared decades earlier, and is survived by his aged and doting mother. Robbie was a fixer who loved nothing more than "arranging" things for power players, but why did he suddenly vanish? Vera and her subordinates delve into a bygone era, and look into the shady activities that took place in a nightclub known as the Seagull. Among the persons of interest are Vera's late father, Hector (who trafficked illegally in rare birds' eggs), a shadowy individual nicknamed the Prof, and a beautiful woman trying to free herself from her addiction to heroin. When someone with ties to the investigation is murdered, Vera's inquiries take on added significance.

"The Seagull," by Ann Cleeves, is a leisurely paced novel in which Vera recalls the unhappy life she had with her aloof and self-centered father, who was greedy, drank too much, and had little use for his only child. Partly as a result of Hector's neglect, Vera became a loner and a workaholic. This work of fiction has two outstanding elementsÛÓits magnificent setting and excellent descriptive writing. On the other hand, the novel is too long, talky, and repetitious. Vera and company conduct endless interviews, sift through old documents and photographs, and try to figure out how all the pieces fit together. At last, they come up with the long-awaited answers that they seek.

Unfortunately, except for Vera and her colleagues, few of the characters stand out, with the exception of Patricia Keane, a depressed and overwhelmed single mom who is barely able to cope with the responsibility of raising three kids. Although Vera can be charming and insightful, too often she comes across as a cold and calculating woman who manipulates others for her own ends. "The Seagull" is an atmospheric police procedural that takes too long to reach its conclusion and offers limited rewards for those who decide to stay the course. ( )
  booklover915 | Oct 9, 2018 |
I love the TV series. If you have started the Vera Stanhope journey with Vera portrayed by Brenda Blethyn it may take you a few books to come to terms with the way Vera is portrayed in this venue...but don't give up...she will grow on you. [The Seagull] is, in my opinion the best of all of the books. If you really want to enter Vera's world and find out what makes her so unique then read this book. ( )
  Carol420 | Jul 26, 2018 |
First introduced to Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope via the TV series Vera, I decided to read one of the novels written by her creator, Ann Cleeves. I was not disappointed as the novel was immensely readable and plot very complicated.

While at Warkworth prison to give a talk to some prisoners, she is asked by prisoner John Brace to speak to her. As he was an old friend of her father, Vera is reluctant but goes to see him. He tells her he can solve a murder case for in exchange for a reduction in his sentence. When her team goes to the site, they find two bodies, not one.

Brace is trying to help his daughter and asks Vera's assistance but it also seems that one of the bodies might be Brace's missing girlfriend and mother of his daughter. Then there is the connection to Hector, Vera's father, that brings back many bad memories of her childhood.

As the investigation progresses, the members of Vera;s team struggle with their personal problems while using their strengths to solve a very complicated case. ( )
  lamour | May 22, 2018 |
My primary interest in Cleves' crime novels is her characters. This latest in the Vera series brings a familiar bunch in familiar surroundings. Without the lives of the characters, this would be an overlong read (416 pages) as Cleves' plotting meanders down many dead ends and throws up a few red herrings until finally in a late chapter flourish ALL IS MADE CLEAR. In this book there's a rather convenient deux machina in her resolution that I found unsatisfying. Otherwise, the usual easy read with interesting characters and well-evoked Northumbria. ( )
  PhilipJHunt | Apr 11, 2018 |
The Seagull finds Inspector DI Vera Stanhope headed to a local prison to give a talk to a bunch of old prisoners on the impact their crimes have on society in this eighth installment in the Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves. While there the former detective superintendent whom Vera helped put in prison, John Brace, asks to speak to her. Brace was a member of the “gang of four” which included Vera’s father. Brace is concerned about his daughter Patty and grandchildren, and if Vera will look in on them, he will provide Vera with information on another member of the gang of four who disappeared 20 years earlier, Robbie Marshall.

Vera does so and Brace comes through with the location of a grave site. When Vera and her team investigate, not only do they find Robbie Marshall, but another body as well. Now Vera must discover what happened to both Robbie as well as the body of a woman who may be Patty’s mother, Mary-Frances Escuola. The case digs up uncomfortable memories about Vera’s own father with whom she had a complicated relationship. It also involves a former ritzy nightclub called The Seagull. The investigation stirs up a lot of old sentiments and when a fresh body turns up, Vera is certain that someone wants to make sure the crime remains unsolved, even after 20 years.

This is an outstanding mystery and it’s easy to see why Vera Stanhope is in her eighth installment. Vera is a wonderful character full of quirks, intelligence, and dogged determination with an almost folksy way about her. The team she leads is made up of a nice mix of experience and youthfulness with each team member bringing a unique skill set to the investigation. Each of their individual talents plays a role in solving the case, with Vera sending them to track down various leads while she herself works on unraveling the whole thing. Vera pulls at the strings until the answers come tumbling out and she is able to wrap things up in a thrilling showdown.

Cleeves has created a clever and compelling mystery that will pique your curiosity. Even better, her characters are uniformly well-developed and entertaining. I absolutely loved spending time with Vera and her team as well as all the others encountered in the course of the investigation. Patty is a particularly good character who is portrayed sympathetically and makes you root for her.

The audiobook is narrated by Janine Birkett who does award-worthy work here. She perfectly captures the character of Vera and brings her to life. Her voice and inflection fill out the description on the page into a fully realized character. The voices of the other characters are likewise distinct and convey a sense of their own confidence or lack thereof, as well as whatever inner turmoil they are experiencing at the time. There are subtle changes that indicate how the same person interacts differently when talking to different characters. Her pacing is perfect for the story. I highly recommend this book and further recommend the audio version. Long-time fans will enjoy and new fans will be able to jump right in without having to have read the earlier books.

I was fortunate to receive a copy of this audiobook from the publisher. ( )
  tottman | Nov 18, 2017 |
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Book description
The much-anticipated eighth novel in Ann Cleeves' bestselling Vera Stanhope series.A visit to her local prison brings DI Vera Stanhope face to face with an old enemy: former detective superintendent, and now inmate, John Brace. Brace was convicted of corruption and involvement in the death of a gamekeeper - and Vera played a part in his downfall. Brace promises Vera information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious wheeler-dealer, if she will look out for his daughter and grandchildren. He tells her that Marshall is dead, his body is buried close to St Mary's Island in Whitley Bay. However, when a search team investigates, officers find not one skeleton, but two. This cold case case takes Vera back in time, and very close to home, as Brace and Marshall, along with a mysterious stranger known only as 'the Prof', were close friends of Hector, her father. Together, they were 'the Gang of Four', and Hector had been one of the last people to see Marshall alive. Vera must confront her prejudices and unwanted memories to dig out the truth, as the past begins to collide dangerously with the present... The Seagull is Ann Cleeves' searing new novel, about corruption deep in the heart of a community, and about fragile, and fracturing, family relationships.
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An encounter with an old enemy draws Vera into a cold case investigation with ties to her father. Former detective superintendent John Brace was convicted of corruption and involvement in the death of a gamekeeper- and DI Vera Stanhope played a key part in his downfall. Now, Brace promises Vera information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious wheeler-dealer who disappeared in the mid-nineties, if she will look out for his daughter and grandchildren. The cold case case takes Vera back in time, to a nightclub called The Seagull and memories of her father, Hector. As the past begins to collide dangerously with the present, Vera must confront her memories and dig out the truth.… (more)

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