When visiting her local prison, DI Vera Stanhope comes face to face with an inmate, John Brace, who is a disgraced former detective superintendent. Vera played a key part in putting him away for his involvement in the death of a games keeper. But John now claims he has information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, an old friend, who disappeared in the mid-nineties. In exchange, John wants Vera to keep an eye on his daughter and grandchildren. His daughter has been struggling since her husband walked out.
John tells Vera where Robbie’s body can be found, but when they go and investigate, they find two skeletons instead of one. And as Vera works on the cold case, past and present seem to merge. Her deceased father, Hector, was one of the ‘Gang of Four’ at a glamorous nightclub called the Seagull. John is in imprison, her father is dead, Robbie appears to have been murdered, so that leaves the mysterious fourth member of the group, ‘the Prof’, to be tracked down. To make things more complicated, Vera starts to suspect that the mother of John’s daughter, who everyone thought was dead, could, in fact, be still alive.
This is a great read if you like a whodunnit with great characters and plenty of pace. Vera is a solid, down-to-earth police officer, who you can’t help but like, and I enjoyed that the twists and turns of the plot weren’t too outlandish and that the story was emotionally engaging. There are plenty of surprises at the end of the book, but they were all satisfying developments with plenty of character development. This is assured storytelling, so it’s no surprise Anne Cleeves books are bestsellers, and they have been made into a TV adaptation.