Vera investigates the murders two Moth enthusiasts in a quiet Northumberland community. Nothing ever happens in Valley Farm/Gilswick does it?
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Story in a nutshell
In a secluded rural Northumberland community, life seems good. Valley Farm is a small and quiet place tucked in the rolling countryside – a lovely country estate at its heart. Its owners have gone on holiday and have employed a house sitter to take care of things whilst they are away. For Patrick, a young ecologist, it’s the perfect rural retreat..for a while.
For Patrick is found dead in the lane beside the house. Vera comes to investigate but neither she nor Joe is prepared for what they find next. A second body. The two victims seemed to have been entomologists – particularly interested in moths.
As Vera goes about digging for the truth in her own indomitable style, she finds that Valley Farm is hiding rather a lot of secrets and that like a moth to a flame, getting too close to the truth could prove fateful.
Place and Setting
Valley Farm – so typical ( in a good way!) of the lovely rural communities in and around the Tyne Valley in the Northumberland countryside. Gilswick is fictional but the beauty, remoteness and rural aspect of its communities is reminiscent of so many places here.
It’s in this valley with its converted farmhouse and barn conversions which may seem small and non descript that hides more secrets than Vera can shake her head at. Three couples live here, all retired and living the good life in a beautiful part of the world. From the outside looking in, the view is a happy one, but the dark vignette is closing in on the happy scene.
With one couple away, Patrick comes to enjoy housesitting for a while. Next door live a couple expecting their jailbird daughter home any day now. From a window elsewhere, a man sits and watches the desolate view…
For one couple, in particular, the next few days will be charged with emotions as their daughter is due to be released from prison at the weekend.
Two victims in such a unusual and unique location – two very different victims, a young student and a middle aged man in a smart suit – their interest in moths and this house in Valley Farm is the only link between them.
The setting for this latest Vera outing is claustrophobic and chilling. Such a small community, retired residents….the last place you would expect to find two murders in one day. And who could have wanted to harm either of them?
This community, too small to be described as a village should be a countryside idyll with its trees, surrounding meandering lanes and vast fields. But this turns into a remote, shadowy place where silence is chilling and the peace shattered by fear and suspicion.
And the moths, oh the Moths, creatures which flap and flutter in the dark, in their desperation to find the light. Creatures who are ugly and who form cocoons around them before they emerge- rather apt for this setting and for Vera’s latest case.
Moths are often regarded as pests for the way they eat the very fabric of what they find. Like in this case, the fabric of this society . Vera must do what she can to catch this infestation but it;s not going to be easy.
There is even, funnily enough, a Northumberland Moth Club if you fancy getting even more ‘involved’ with certain aspects of the book – http://www.northumberlandmoths.org.uk/index.php
There is also a charity dedicated to the conservation of moths and butterflies – http://www.northeast-butterflies.org.uk/index.html
Ann Cleeves is a superb writer for creating something out of nothing – like a word wizard in which a small and insignificant community like Valley Farm and Gilswick could be such a menacing and secretive place. And Moths? Bbbr even when I read the title, it made me shiver. Not a fan of bugs of any description and this gave me the chills as visions of dark places, insects and murder came into my mind.
And what lies behind those curtains of those picture postcard stone cottages? Roaring fires, cosy interiors or something a bit more hedonistic and wild? It’s always the quiet ones you’ve got to look out for. I was intrigued to see what Vera would make of it all with her no nonsense attitude. From the way she tackled the claustrophobic nature of Harbour Street, I had every faith in her, and she didn’t disappoint.
More character development here too with Vera, Joe and Holly and also interestingly Vera’s father.
Just found out this is going to be televised on ITV in 2016 – it’s going to be episode 3 of the new series and I for one can’t wait.