Author: Ann Cleeves
Narrator: Charlie Hardwick
Released: May 2018 by Macmillan Audio
Category: Crime, Thriller, Suspense, Audiobook, Review
The Glass Room is the fifth book in Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope series – which is now a major ITV detective drama starring Brenda Blethyn, VERA. DI Vera Stanhope is not one to make friends easily, but her hippy neighbours keep her well-supplied in homebrew and conversation. But when one of them goes missing, her path leads her to more than a missing friend.
Returning home after work and looking forward to some down time, DI Vera Stanhope, not really the sociable type, is annoyed to find her neighbour, Jack, waiting for her.
It seems his partner Joanna has gone missing and he needs Vera’s help. If he’d expected sympathy and a shoulder to cry on he was way off the mark but Vera, mindful of the burgeoning friendship that was developing between them agreed, for a variety of reasons, to Jack’s request.
God, Vera thought, if any of the others considered doing this—going freelance, playing private eye—I’d give them such a bollocking.
Vera soon finds out that Joanna is staying at the Writer’s House, a retreat for writers of varying experience, where residential courses and seminars are held with the promise of a possible publishing deal. The Writer’s House is owned and run by Miranda Barton, with the help of her son, Alex. Deciding to check the place out discretely before she spoke to Joanna, Vera’s visit coincides with the discovery of a body. Professor Tony Ferdinand, lecturer, had been stabbed to death. Joanna was found holding a knife. By rights, Vera knows she should step down and let someone else handle the case but she’s never been one to follow the rules.
‘Your mother saw the murderer?’
’No! I did. As I’ve just said. And as I told your colleagues. On my way to the glass room, while Mother was still screaming, I bumped into the woman here in the corridor She had a knife in her hand.’
‘Very convenient.’ Bugger, Vera thought. So it was back to working the boring stuff, the pathetic druggies and pub brawls, just when she thought there might be something more exciting to sustain her interest. Then she had another thought, which was even more disturbing. ‘I suppose your murderer has a name?’
‘It’s one of the students. We’ve shut her in her bedroom. She’s called Joanna Tobin.’
I loved the setting for this book on an isolated and rugged stretch of the Northumbrian coast. The story itself mirrors a classic crime novel—a captive number of suspects in an old remote, rambling house, several with a motive for murder. The way in which people regard each other, often completely wrongly, is woven into the narrative with insight, as is the world of writers and publishers. A well plotted and paced story with believable characters has enough twists to send the reader (this one anyway) in every direction but the right one.
The TV characterisations are slightly different to the books. In the televised version Vera is still short-tempered but slightly less abrasive and not portrayed nearly as large. Her vulnerability and flaws are evident in both, I’m glad to say, which makes her a more rounded and engaging character despite the brusque manner. It makes a nice change to have someone quirky and not at all stereotypical as the main protagonist. Joe is much more adult in his dealings with the other members of the team, and the confrontational attitude between him and Holly is nonexistent. Ann Cleeves’ well drawn representation of the characters is excellent and I do enjoy being able to picture the cast in their roles, and the areas the stories are set.
I chose to listen to and review The Glass Room based on an audio of the book courtesy of Brisa Robinson at Macmillan Audio