Reviews by L. J. Roberts


ANN CLEEVES “Frozen.” Minotaur, free e-short story, 2021.

First Sentence: Vera woke to a free day and an unexpected longing for exercise.

   It’s her day off, and DI Vera Stanhope takes the opportunity to visit a new bookshop located in a renovated chapel. What she was not looking for was a skeleton unearthed in a cellar baptismal font. Time for Vera to solve this long-cold case.

   Cleeves’ descriptions allow one to see places we’ve not been, in the present and the past— “Standing with her back to old stones, she imagined squads of legionnaires marching… they must have policed the region then, so she saw them as her forbears, as kindred spirits, and felt a connection across the centuries.”

   Bringing us to the present, she carries forth that sense of timelessness with her wonderful imagery— “the building that had once been built to the glory of God, now celebrated the story in all its forms.” Whereupon the mood is effectively broken and the investigation begins.

   Even though the books are separate from the television series, those who watch may clearly hear the voice of actress Brenda Blethyn as Vera. Rather than a negative, it adds a warmth and personal touch to the story. Still, this is not Vera’s story alone, but one which includes her team, including Joe who is still her second in the books, and Holly in a scene that makes one smile. However, if one is looking for in-depth descriptions of the characters, or quantities of backstory, it’s not here. “Frozen” is a short story, after all, and fits in after book eight in the series.

   What is here is atmosphere and Cleeve’s creative use of the weather almost as another character. Nothing is lost in the construction of this fascinating short story. Suspects are identified, clues tracked down with twists and red herrings.

   “Frozen” may be a fairly simple story, but it is well-crafted and, if one has not previously read Ann Cleeves, this a perfect introduction to her writing and the Vera series.

Rating: A