Review: Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves is the second book in the Vera Stanhope series, where a ten-year-old murder case is reopened, leading to an investigation into a small town full of big secrets (available August 22, 2017).

My introduction to Deputy Chief Inspector (DCI) Vera Stanhope of the Northumbria Police came by way of my local public television station, which for the past several years has hosted Vera, the television series based on the edge-of-your-seat novels written by Ann Cleeves. As soon as I saw the first couple of episodes, I immediately went in search of the books. Some were harder to find than others.

As time went by, I was totally frustrated by the fact that once a book was released in England, we here in the USA would have to sit around tapping our toes and watching reruns of the series while waiting for the book to be released in the United States.

Telling Tales, the book I am so pleased to talk about today, was the second book written in the series. I am ecstatic that Minotaur Books went back to the beginning of Vera’s literary life and is publishing US editions. The first book, The Crow Trap, is already available, and Telling Tales will be released August 22, 2017. Minotaur Books will release two books each year until we are caught up with the series.

Exciting, right? That is not even the best news yet! The spectacular news is that Seagull, the eighth book in the series, will be on shelves this September, and it is the first of the series to be released in the USA and the UK simultaneously. So I get to read it at exactly the same time as my friends in Belfast!

Okay, so now that I have all those grand announcements out of the way. Let’s chat about Telling Tales, shall we?

As the story opens, we meet Emma, who is married and the mother of a young baby. We soon learn that ten years earlier, at the age of fifteen, Emma discovered the murdered body of her best friend, Abigail Mantel, lying in a field. Abigail’s father’s girlfriend Jeanie Long was convicted of the murder and recently committed suicide when she was denied parole. As if that wasn’t enough to stir up grim recollections for the residents of the tiny village of Elvet, it turns out that a witness has come forward and exonerated Jeanie just days after her death—which can only mean that Abigail’s killer is still at large.

On Sunday, her head filled with confused memories, Emma attends church with her husband, James, and her infant son. As she sits holding her son, Matthew, on her lap, she wonders if the tragedy will be announced from the altar.  

There was no mention of Jeanie Long in the sermon and Emma thought perhaps the vicar had not heard about the suicide, but her name was there, along with Elsie Hepworth and Albert Smith, in the prayers for the deceased. Sitting with Matthew on her lap, looking down on the bent heads of the congregation who were kneeling, she tried to conjure up an image of Jeanie. 

Then, Emma notices a large woman in the church, a stranger, and wonders who she is. By the description, we readers know immediately. 

The woman was in a shapeless Crimplene dress covered with small purple flowers and a fluffy purple cardigan. Despite the cold, on her feet she wore flat leather sandals.

And as Emma visits a neighbor a few days later, the woman seems to be waiting for her.

“Who are you?” Emma demanded. Then, before the woman could answer, remembering Dan’s earlier warning, “Are you a reporter?”

The woman gave a wheezy laugh. Her enormous bosoms shook.

“Not me, pet. I’m on the side of the angels.” She held out a hand the size of a shovel. “Vera Stanhope. Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope. Northumbria Police. I’ve been brought in to clear up this particular pile of crap.”

In that moment, every reader knows that Vera will push her team to do exactly that. 

I have to say that for a murder that happened ten years in the past, there were more zigs and zags than I could have imagined. Vera not only has to resolve the killing of Abigail Mantel but she also takes up the cause of discovering why the original investigation went so very wrong. 

Mystery fans, fear not. Even if you have faithfully watched every episode of the Vera series as I have, it will not affect your enjoyment of these novels one bit. Let me say that there might be just enough difference in the storyline to trick you up. Also, on the screen we watch DCI Vera Stanhope work her magic, while in the novels the magic is more subtle and requires your absolute attention—which, I guarantee, you won’t mind giving.

And because we are the luckiest readers ever, Criminal Element’s Adam Wagner has designed a GIFnotes that gives you an idea of the storyline of Telling Tales without giving away so much as a spec of the solution to the mystery. Link on over and have fun, and then get yourself a copy of Telling Tales. It is well worth the read.

Read an excerpt from Telling Tales!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

Buy at iTunes

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Agatha Award-winning novelist Terrie Farley Moran is the author of the beachside Read 'Em and Eat cozy mystery series. She also co-writes the New Orleans Scrapbooking mystery series with Laura Childs. Terrie has published numerous short stories including the recent Derringer Award winner, “Inquiry and Assistance”.  Her web address is


  1. Terrie Farley Moran

    Leslie, I think you would really enjoy the books. Good as the movies are (and they are great) the books have a bit of indefinable extra!

  2. Terrie Farley Moran

    Martin, of course you are correct. I confused titles from my former life with Vera’s title in this book. Thanks for clearing that up for our readers.

  3. Connie di Marco

    Terrie ~ You might have been there a few years ago when Ann Cleeves showed the film Crow Trap at Malice Domestic. She said when the first Vera book was released (pre-internet days), the publisher forgot to include it in the catalogue. I believe her UK publisher was scrambling to get these books back in print, but it looks like it’s Minotaur now?

  4. Terrie Farley Moran

    Hi Connie, I was at Malice when Ann Cleeves was there. Minotaur will be the imprint bringing forward the back list in the US and releasing the new books simultaniously with Pan McMillan. Great news for American fans. Terrie

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