It all begins on a dark night in the nineties and we all know that looking into the dark can make things appear to be there when they’re not but when DI Vera Stanhope looks into the dark, she realises that the ghosts she finds are not just figments of her imagination in the eighth mystery for our crime-fighting friend…

For Vera, the stalwart team leader at Northumberland and City police, a case quickly becomes close to home when she gives a talk to inmates on the Elderly and Disabled Wing of the local prison about the impact of their crimes on their victims. There, she encounters a man from her past John Brace a former member of the police force and a friend of her late father Hector. Spotting an opportunity to deal with a personal situation, Brace dangles a vital piece of information about a buried body in a cold case.

In typical fashion, Vera subverts the powers-that-be (all too interested in making changes that she will not comply with) and involves her team in the hunt for the body of Robbie Marshall who had also been a friend of Hector. It is difficult, being such an avid fan of Vera on ITV, not to read the books and imagine Brenda Blethyn but in some ways to do so only seems to strengthen the characterisation, team dynamics and feel of the book as a whole.

Vera’s interactions with her team and the team themselves are excellently portrayed and demonstrate why Cleeves is such a celebrated talent in the police procedural genre. The Seagull excellently delves deeper into the backstory of one of crime fiction’s most recognisable detectives and gives essential page-time to the elusive figure of Hector Stanhope in order that the reader may understand not only the relationship between father and daughter but also some of Vera’s habits and motivations.

Without spoiling the central mystery what we can tell you is that The Seagull is a compelling mystery with betrayal, family, loyalty and intrigue at its heart. A fast paced page turner which demonstrates not only Cleeves’ love of the genre but also love of the places and characters in the novel, this will be a perfect introduction to Autumn’s crime fiction. Thoroughly recommended.

The Seagull will be published on 7th September by Pan Macmillan.

Literature Works received an advance-review copy of The Seagull from Netgalley