MYSTERY

The Crow Trap: A Vera Stanhope Mystery

Minotaur: St. Martin's. Feb. 2017. 544p. ISBN 9781250122735. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250122759. M
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Published in the UK in 1998 and just now released in the United States, this first book in Cleeves's "Vera Stanhope" series (which also inspired a popular television show) demonstrates exactly why the curmudgeonly Northumberland police detective gets results. Three local women—botanist Anne, zoologist Grace, and team leader Rachael—have banded together to study the environmental impacts of a proposed quarry on a national park. It isn't even the suicide of Rachael's friend that gets Vera on the case: it's the more obvious murder of someone closely linked to the project that raises the detective's investigative hackles. Like so many large-scale environmental programs that have the potential to disrupt small villages, the quarry project stirs up bad blood, causing Vera to question whether or not the deaths—she's convinced the two are connected—are related to the new development or to darker secrets buried much deeper.
VERDICT It would be foolish to discount Vera because she doesn't dress smartly

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