I have read the 92nd book for the book challenge. It was Silent Voices: A Vera Stanhope Mystery by Ann Cleeves.
Social worker Jenny Lister is discovered strangled in the sauna room of the Willows Hotel. She had finished her morning swim. Her bag is missing from the locker room. Vera Stanhope and her team is called to investigate.
Vera goes to Jenny’s home to tell her daughter Hannah of her mother’s death. The girl wants her boyfriend Simon Eliot to be there with her. He is the son of the wealthy people of the village, Veronica and Christopher Eliot. Vera and her team interview all the staff at the hotel, particularly the cleaner Danny Shaw. Vera also looks into Jenny Lister’s background as a social workers. She learns that Jenny was writing a book about her clients.
Jenny was writing about one particular case, the case of Elias Jones. Elias had been killed by his mother, Mattie Jones. He was drowned by his mother who wanted to please her lover, Michael Morgan. Vera seeks out Michael Morgan who now has a new lover Freya, a young woman who is pregnant. Michael Morgan works at the Willows as an independent contractor. Vera also contacts the woman who was the social worker on the Elias Jones case, Connie Masters, who has a small daughter named Alice. Connie happens to live very near to where Jenny Lister lived. Connie is no longer employed after Elias Jones’s death. Connie has no information about Jenny or the book she was writing. Connie has a visit from a young man whom she does not know who is looking for Veronica Eliot. When she goes to make tea, he disappears.
Vera interviews Veronica Eliot. She learns that Veronica had a child who died in a drowning accident in the river by Connie’s house. Veronica is a pillar of the community. Connie does not much like Veronica because Veronica has said things about Connie when Connie first arrived in the village. However, Veronica has since been pleasant to Connie, inviting her to tea.
Then Danny Shaw is found strangled in his home. The killer seems to be tidying up loose ends. Vera checks with Craig, Jenny Lister’s supervisor about her cases. She has a theory about Mattie Jones. She sends Joe Ashforth to interview Mattie in prison and ask her about her childhood in care and her visits to her mother. Vera also learns from a neighbor that Jenny Lister was having an affair with someone “inappropriate.” Vera begins to have a theory about that to and check with another police agency to verify her suspicions.
Then Connie disappears. She does phone Joe and tells him that she and Alice are safe but she sounds stressed. Vera and Joe are worried. Vera has Charlie look for Connie’s car. It is discovered in the parking lot of Christopher Eliot’s company. Vera then knows where Connie and Alice are being held and who they are in danger from. It is a race against time, and the rains, to save Connie and her daughter.
I really enjoyed this book. Vera is a fine detective. She is surly and abrupt, but cares about her people in her own way. She plays her cards close to her vest. She doesn’t show her hand until the very end. In true Ann Cleeves fashion, the murderer is not revealed until the absolute end of the book and then she explains how and why the murders where committed. It is a thrilling story.