Silent Voices by Ann Cleaves Free Essay

Silent Voices by Ann Cleaves Book Review

Ann Cleeves is one of those crime–writers, who make the readers intrigued from the first lines of their stories and then do not let free till the end. In 2006 she became the winner of the inaugural Duncan Lawriw Dagger, which is considered to be the richest crime-winning prize in the world. Cleeves used to be a student of Sussex Universtiy, but then she dropped out. She tried a number of different jobs, including probation officer, child care officer, cook, auxiliary coastguard and so on. Finally, she managed to find herself in the world of criminal stories. Her series about Vera Stanhope became especially successful and there were even TV detective series made on the basis of her novels. “In 2015, Cleeves was the Programming Chair for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival & the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. In 2015, she was shortlisted for the Dagger in the Library UK Crime Writers’ Association award for an author’s body of work in British libraries (UK)” (Butcher 2014). Silent Voices is said to be a tremendous visual and imaginative treat, forcing the readers focus upon various aspects of the novel, narration, heroes, plot line, humor. (Butcher 2014). Silent Voices is the fourth book in the series of Vera Stanhope by Ann Cleeves and is a great detective drama with intricate plot and outstanding female protagonist and is good example of the talent of Ann Cleeves to present a compelling mystery, surrounded by shades of human emotions.

Vera Stanhope is the main heroin of the story and she finds a body of a woman in the sauna room of the local gym, which she started to attend herself. Immediately she is interested in the chance to face a death case from natural causes and the probability of this perspective in her life. As soon as Vera is able to see the ligature marks around the throat of the victim, she considers the fact that death is never simple, and this idea offers thrilling expectations to the readers. From the very first paragraphs the story catches the readers with the author’s voice and mood. Cleeves lets the readers enjoy her simple and dry humor and the major characters of the story. This humor might seem too harsh sometimes, when Vera for example describes Ashworth’s reaction to the news about a dead woman in sauna: “His face brightened. The death of a strange middle-aged woman wasn’t so much a tragedy for him, she thought. More a marketing opportunity.” (Cleeves 2013).  By the end of the first chapter it is already difficult to stop and to leave the story unread.

The character of Vera is without any doubts the brightest in the story. She is a mature woman, she is aware of the fact that she is overweight, but she does not seem to be too much concerned about the way she looks. At the same time, soon the readers realize that this is her “official” version and in reality she envies beautiful and slim ladies. She underlines this with her usual slight and direct humor, mentioning that they all look the same to her: “And Vera supposed they did. Just as all the skinny young women looked the same to her” (Cleeves 2013). She is able to cooperate with her team and at the same time she is not preoccupied with the idea of being fair to them. She is perfectly aware of the fact that she is able to motivate them and of her own good leadership qualities. This is the reason, why she is used to drive them hard. The colleagues respect Vera, including the situations when they frustrate her. Her method of investigation is specific, as he is not simply interested in understanding the clues, but she wants to know more about human motivations. In other words, she is interested in the core of the human’s mind and souls, the major motivations and driving forces, which make them commit the things, they commit.

Ann Cleeves managed to realize her outstanding writing style in her story Silent Voices. The story is told in third person, but when the major focus shifts towards Very, the narrator changes and sometimes the events are presented from the first person. This is a perfect method to make the readers plunged into the life of the main heroin, to better understand her character and personality, her choices and attitudes to the surrounding world, finally her humor. Internal monologues and observations of the protagonist of the story are utterly important for better perception of the story itself, as well as her way of thinking. Her comments, which are made by the author only for the readers, are the connection points of the narration’s parts and they  present the needed clues, without that it would most probably be not interesting to follow the crime line and investigation. For example, when Vera was discussing the cleaning personnel in the sauna, some of her questions might seem useless to the readers, without the author’s additional comments: “Dead punter. Didn’t necessarily mean there was a connection, but it would make life a whole lot easier if the temporary cleaner had a conviction for killing middle-aged women. Of if the victim turned out to be his estranged wife” (Cleeves 2013). At the same time these lines are formulated with a portion of slight humor, as it is evident that there is no reason to produce a whole crime story, if the solution is that much on the surface. To some extent the character of Vera is described via the descriptions of the town and contrasting descriptions of her home, which is desolated and reflecting her personality and worldviews. The strong sense of place adds to the overall perception of the protagonist by the readers and contributes to understanding her investigation method and ways of communicating with her team members, as well as with other people around.

She developed an interesting relationship with her sergeant Joe: “Sometimes Vera though he represented her feminine side. He had the empathy, she had the muscle. Well, the bulk.” (Cleeves 2013). When the investigation of the case in the sauna starts, Vera lacks both suspects and any obvious clues, which could be found at the scene. She is to contact her assistant – Joe Ashworth. They start to work over this sophisticated case together, being absolutely different and sometimes opposed to each other, and still supplementing each other. Vera is able to recognize that the local knowledge of her partner could be of great use for the investigation. They work as a strong team over the secrets of the professional and personal life of the victim. The author continues the story referring to blunt essay and conclusions. It is moving forward with certain regulated rhythm and speed and sometimes it does not correspond to the complexity of the major characters and the themes discussed. One mystery is revealed by the other, and the result is a multi-layered and fascinating plot of the crime story. The story turns soon into a profound investigation of the human relationships and connections, which are defined by the social organization and hierarchy in the society, which Vera also belongs to. If compared to Poirot, Vera is different due to her more fragile personality. She is desperate about her lonely life, about the loss of her father and lack of adequate information about her mother. “Demonstrating great depth of understanding of the perils and selfishness of human nature, Vera’s life appears as just as blustery and as bleak as the northern English landscapes she so dutifully inhabits.” (Butcher 2014). Poirot in his turn is presented as a conventional and clue-based detective, he is not ready to operate that much as a team member, as Vera, and he prefers often to conceal huge parts of his plans from Hastings. Vera’s style of communication with people, when she is to ask questions about the events and to talk to witnesses is usual, friendly, without additional pressure: “She opened the steam-room door. “Take a peep”, she said. “Don’t worry. It’s not that gruesome. But I’d like to know if you recognize her. Could save us a fair bit of time” (Cleeves 2013). Generally, the methods of Vera are related to her character, her personality and her own way of living, she usually tries to make friends with her interviewees, her scoffing over pastries and teas in their households are still effective. Poirot is led by his outstanding mind and logic, whereas Vera is used to rely upon her understanding and perception of the nastier sides of human nature, which she investigated being a “fat girl” during her school years already.

Overall, Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves is a fascinating crime story, which offers not only brilliantly constructed plot and interesting story line, but introduces the female protagonist to the readers. Vera Stanhope is an unusual detective, she combines the features of a great woman, suffering from loneliness and problems with extra weight and feeling envious about slim and beautiful figures of other ladies around, and the features of a smart and intelligent detective with natural understanding of human nature and perfectly working intuition.


Works cited:

Barnard, Robert. A Talent to Deceive – an appreciation of Agatha Christie (Revised ed.). Fontana Books, 1990

Butcher, Joanne. Vera writer Ann Cleeves gains honour from North East university

The Journal, 2014

Cleeves, Ann. Silent Voices. Minotaur Books, 2013

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: November 26, 2021] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]
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