Harbour Street by Ann Cleeves
Joe pushed through the crowd. It was just before Christmas and the Metro trains were full of shoppers clutching carrier bags stuffed with useless presents. Babies were left to scream in expensive buggies. People who'd been drinking early spilled out from office parties, stumbling down the escalators and onto the trains. Youths used language Joe wouldn't want his children to hear. Today, though, he'd had no option about using the Metro. Sal had been adamant that she needed the car.
It was just him and his daughter. She was in the school choir and there'd been a performance in Newcastle Cathedral. Carols by candlelight, because even at four o'clock it was dark in the building. Beautiful singing that made him feel like crying. His boss, Vera Stanhope, always said that he was a romantic fool. The out into the rush-hour evening, and it was just starting to snow, so Jessie was excited all over again. She was a soloist and had hit all the right notes, so the choirmaster had given her a special mention at the end. Christmas was only ten days away, though she was too old now to believe in Santa. But there was snow. Tiny little flakes twisting in the gusty wind like mini-tornadoes.
Harbour Street is actually the 6th book in the Vera Stanhope series. You may ask, what happened to #4 and #5? Well, I did listen to the 4th book, Silent Voices, but had already talked about my experience reading it in print here . It was narrated by Charlie Harwick and she did a good job. Book #5, The Glass Room, is only available in print. Since these books are pretty much complete in themselves, I skipped that one and went on to #6. I'm trying to finish the series before the end of April when I will be attending Malice Domestic 30, a mystery conference. Ann Cleeves and Brenda Blethyn (who plays Vera in the TV adaptation) will both be in attendance.
Harbour Street takes place at Christmas time. As one might expect, Christmas and all the celebrating, not really Vera's 'cup of tea'. She never experienced 'happy families', as she terms it. Her father, Hector, was not a particularly nice man and he didn't seem to care that his daughter was missing out on normal life. First thing in the book, we see Vera's colleague, Joe Ashworth, with his own daughter on a train. Jessie, Joe's daughter, discovers an older woman who has been stabbed. The woman lived on Harbour Street and the investigation centers on the people who reside there and the secrets they have hidden for a long time. Solving this crime is more fun for Vera than shopping for a Secret Santa gift. And solve it she does - in time for the holidays. Janine Birkett narrated this one and she also did a good job. Next on the list, The Moth Catcher.
As the snow falls thickly on Newcastle, the shouts and laughter of Christmas revelers break the muffled silence. Detective Joe Ashworth and his daughter Jessie are swept along in the jostling crowd onto the Metro.
But when the train is stopped due to the bad weather, and the other passengers fade into the swirling snow, Jessie notices that one lady hasn't left the train: Margaret Krukowski has been fatally stabbed.
Arriving at the scene, DI Vera Stanhope is relieved to have an excuse to escape the holiday festivities. As she stands on the silent, snow-covered station platform, Vera feels a familiar buzz of anticipation, sensing that this will be a complex and unusual case.
Then, just days later, a second woman is murdered. Vera knows that to find the key to this new killing she needs to understand what had been troubling Margaret so deeply before she died - before another life is lost. She can feel in her bones that there's a link. Retracing Margaret's final steps, Vera finds herself searching deep into the hidden past of this seemingly innocent neighborhood, led by clues that keep revolving around one street...
Why are the residents of Harbour Street so reluctant to speak?