Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
I was a newcomer to DI Vera Stanhope – but by the end of Chapter 1 of Harbour Street, the sixth in Ann Cleeves’ series featuring this unusual and forthright sleuth, I was hooked and stayed that way until the satisfying last page.
All six of Vera’s cases will promptly be joining the author’s enjoyable Shetland series on my bookshelves. As with the latter, Harbour Street painstakingly and subtly builds up the atmosphere of its location to create a mystery that never falters in its appeal. Harbour Street in the small Northumberland town of Mardle shelters a cast of characters whose secrets demand all of Vera’s powers to unravel.
It’s the bleak mid-winter in Mardle when shortly before Christmas Detective Joe Ashworth battles his way home on the metro from Newcastle together with his young daughter Jessie. When snow halts the train and the travellers have to leave it, one of them fails to move, a stylish and quiet elderly woman. In the midst of the rowdy crowd aboard, she has been stabbed. It’s a case for Vera Stanhope, who leads her team to an investigation that centres on the street where Margaret Krukowski lived, Harbour Street. Vera realises when a second woman is murdered shortly afterwards that the reason for Margaret’s death lies in her past, a past in which Harbour Street and its characters play an integral part.
Ann Cleeves’ style is beguilingly straightforward as she adds detail after detail to bring Harbour Street to life; it seems unhurried and yet creates the pace that turns this engrossing story into such a winner. Please don’t retire, Vera!