With The Heron’s Cry, Ann Cleeves returns to her recently launched Two Rivers series. In many ways, all of Cleeves’ books feel like ensemble pieces, but this new series in particular, celebrates all the characters equally. Yes, Matthew Venn – as the head of the investigation team – anchors the novel(s), but the development of each major player is well thought out and keeps readers invested.

Longtime readers of Ann Cleeves will know that her characters are always multi-dimensional, allowing incidents in each of the books to help shape and mold them. Even with the newness of the Two Rivers series, this same principle holds true in The Heron’s Cry. The North Devon community that serves as the setting is quaint and tight-knit, so naturally many of the characters are linked – be it as friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Naturally, this makes any investigation of crime more complex, but its also rewarding to see that Matthew and his team encounter major players from the first novel, during their canvasing endeavors in this book.

Work/Life balance is an important theme in The Heron’s Cry. Readers witness how the high stress job of policework intrudes on each of the character’s personal lives. Ann Cleeves is never one to give easy solutions, so this is a struggle we will continue to witness as the series continues.

All of this talk of character in no way shortchanges the plot. Ann Cleeves is meticulous in crafting intricate webs, luring readers down one alley only to reveal an unexpected dark corner that leads to another route. The Heron’s Cry begins with the death of Dr. Nigel Yeo – stabbed with a shard of glass from a vase his artist daughter created. This leads Matthew and the team to focus on a multi-artist residence home, which also has ties to Matthew’s husband Jonathan. A second death, with similar MO, will cause the team to take a step back to reassess.

The theme of artistic achievement is another that links this novel to The Long Call (the first in the series). With the prominence of The Woodyard artist compound to this community, this is likely to be an ongoing thread throughout the series. However, Ann Cleeves is not going to allow this case to be that straightforward, so a recent controversy in the healthcare sector also makes Dr. Yeo a target of those colleagues. The way Ann Cleeves is able to weave such disparate topics into a realistic Gordian Knot reaffirms her role has master storyteller.

The Heron’s Cry works perfectly well as a stand-alone, but readers will find the experience more rewarding if they start the Two Rivers series at the beginning. Already, readers are witnessing major shifts in character behavior confirming that the slow burn of these books is intentional, implying that the series arc is likely to be both radical and rewarding. Ann Cleeves has no shortage of fans who will follow her anywhere. Here’s hoping that The Heron’s Cry – and the Two Rivers novels – grows that legion even larger.

BUY LINKS: The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.