I have read the 116th book for the book challenge. It was The Crow Trap: A Vera Stanhope Novel by Ann Cleeves.
In this first Vera Stanhope novel, Ann Cleeves introduces us to her Inspector. She first organizes the book by introducing us to the three women who are living in Baikie Cottage and conducting the environmental surveys. There is Rachel who is counting the birds. Ann is a botanist. And Grace is counting the mammals, specifically the otters.
Rachel is the leader of the team. She has had an affair with the owner of the company but that is over now. She has just found her friend Bella Furness dead, a suicide on the farm Black law next door. She is very upset by her death. She thinks she has seen Peter, the owner of the survey company, at the farm the day of Bella’s suicide.
Ann is a botanist. She lives nearby at the Priory with her husband Jeremy but is having an affair with the president of Slateburn Quarries, Godfrey Waugh. However, she is fighting against the quarry.
Grace is a former foster child who has been bounced around the foster system. Her father Edmund is the black-sheep son of the Fulwell’s who own the estate that is being used to work the quarry. Edmund doesn’t want the quarry on his ancestral land and is pressuring Grace to inflate the otter counts to stop the quarry.
Grace walks in on Ann and Godfrey one afternoon in Baikie Cottage. She excuses herself and goes back out. She never comes back. She is later found in the mine, strangled.
Vera Stanhope and her team come in to investigate the murder of Grace. They interview Rachel, her mother Edie, Ann, Jeremy, Neville Furness, Robert Fulwell, Edmund Fulwell, Olivia Fulwell, Godfrey Waugh. They do not learn much. Edmund is distraught over his daughter’s death. He starts drinking again.
Rachel starts seeing Neville Furness. Coming home one night from seeing him one night, she is run off the road by a white car.
Ann is asked to tea by Barbara Waugh, the wife of Godfrey. She doesn’t want the quarry to go ahead and asks for Ann’s help to stop it.
Ann tells Vera that she should talk to Barbara Waugh about the quarry. Vera wants to explore the connection between Bella and Edmund and their stay at St. Nick’s. They met at a coffee shop in town with another woman. She needs to find the other woman.
Then Edmund disappears. No one can find him. There is a party of Robert and Olivia’s youngest child. Everyone attends the party. Ann wanders off and goes to the cottages. She goes into one of them. She finds Edmund in it, dead.
Vera investigates Edmund’s death. His nanny had hidden him; then his brother hid him in the cottage. He drank himself into a stupor and then someone suffocated him. Vera must find the third woman from the coffee shop.
Vera works with the psychologist from St. Nick’s group to identify the people who were in the group and who might have kept in touch. She learns that the woman was Barbara Waugh. She had kidnapped a boy and kept him at the mine where he died. She doesn’t want his bones discovered. That’s why she doesn’t want the quarry there. She is caught and taken away.
In true Ann Cleeves fashion, this mystery is solved at the very end of the story. There are few clues beforehand. We begin to suspect Barbara since she is against the quarry but we don’t know why. We don’t know the dark secrets she holds, until the rumors come forth about a woman with Bella and Edmund in the coffee shop. Then we suspect Barbara. Once again, Vera does her homework and plays it close with the psychologist. This happens at the end of the story. I love how Ann Cleeves leaves everything until the final page.