When DI Vera Stanhope finds the body of a woman in the sauna room of her local gym, she wonders briefly if, for once in her life, she's uncovered a simple death from natural causes. But a closer inspection reveals ligature marks around the victim's throat - death is never that simple.
Doing what she does best, Vera pulls her team together and sets them interviewing staff and those connected to the victim, while she and colleague, Sergeant Joe Ashworth, work to find a motive. While Joe struggles to reconcile his home life with the demands made on him by the job, Vera revels being back in charge of an investigation again. Death has never made her feel so alive.
And when they discover that the victim had worked in social services, and had been involved in a shocking case involving a young child, then it appears obvious that the two are somehow connected. Though things are never as they seem...
In May 2013, Silent Voices introduced Vera to US readers:
"Vera Stanhope, the overweight, unfashionable, irascible, and brilliant detective inspector with the Northumbria police, has been going great guns in the UK for years - five novels have appeared, and an ITV dramatization, Vera, is in its third season. This mystery, the fourth in the series, introduces U.S. readers to a woman who feels a bit guilty that a good murder case always lifts her spirits. A stab at getting fit puts Vera right in a crime scene this time, at the very fitness center where Vera has been hopelessly doing laps on the advice of her doctor. Vera sits in the steam room after her laps, feeling very bulky and out of place, envying the woman with the long lean legs who seems so relaxed next to her - a little too relaxed. Vera discovers that the woman is dead. The unraveling of the mystery that ensues delivers a deft blending of contemporary forensic analysis and old-fashioned interviewing that branches out from the fitness center (this is a locked-room mystery, at least to begin with) to the murdered woman's family and acquaintances. It's Vera herself that makes the novel. The way Cleeves presents the point of view of a woman who is both vain and can't-be-bothered yet always aware of her own shambling appearance and of what may lie beneath other people's polished appearances is priceless. A nice mixture, in the British tradition, of social comedy and detective work. More Vera, please."
Connie Fletcher, Booklist
"The U.S. introduction to that scruffy, tactless, unloved loner, middle-aged Inspector Vera Stanhope.... [R]eaders devoted to Cleeves' tales of Jimmy Perez (....) will want to give Vera a try."
"Yet it is Stanhope herself - a homely overweight spinster with blotchy skin, a fondness for alcohol and a toxic personality - who, using intuition and subtle intimidation brings all the disorganization to an illogical but satisfying conclusion."
"Plain descriptions vividly evoke the modest region and its inhabitants, and Cleeves's economical style freshens even well-worn scenes such as police briefings and interrogations. Plot twists are few and satisfying."
Anna Mundow, Barnes & Noble Review
In the UK
Silent Voices was first published in the UK by Pan MacMillan on February 4th, 2011, the paperback followed in January 2016:
- The new paperback edition is now available (November 2020) from Amazon UK; (or - if your local bookshop doesn't have a copy - ask them to order it for you, quoting the ISBN: 978-1-5290-4995-4).
- order the UK hardback edition from Amazon (ISBN: 978-0-230-74581-0).
- Download the Kindle edition.
- Download the Audible audiobook, read by Janine Birkett, or order it on CD from the Reading House in a choice of audio formats (also in a Large Print edition, pictured above).
In the US
Silent Voices was the first Vera Stanhope book to be published in the US (by Minotaur Books, in May 2013, ISBN: 978-1-2500-3358-1). It is now available in a smart new paperback edition (ISBN: 978-1-2500-498100). Order your copy:
"Everyone will be talking about Ann Cleeves next February when ITV screens a four-part mini-series starring Brenda Blethyn about unkempt pig-headed detective Vera Stanhope and her legal back-up team... The use of commonplace images and everyday situations masks the ingenious plotline and leads to a thrilling and unexpected finale."
Sarah Clarke, The Bookseller
"She's hit the big time... Wonderful setting for a murder mystery... More successful than Banks. I think this is going to be a winner!"
BBC Front Row, 18.01.2011
"... the imposing figure of DI Vera Stanhope. This is policewoman as crumpled Valkyrie, at times almost an outcrop of the landscape, at times avenging goddess striding the Northern blasts... Cleeves is excellent not only on the main character but on the mixture of exasperation and respect that she provokes in others. Combined with the intricate plotting, this makes for a compulsive read."
Jane Jakeman, The Independent
"Cleeves has a way of making unlikely murders plausible by grounding them in recognisable communities... [Vera's] bluntness gives solidity to such police procedurals, which bodes well for the ITV adaptation."
Christopher Fowler, Financial Times
"Cleeves's narrative is pacy and energetic and DI Vera Stanhope is the only character to be relied upon in a novel where nothing is as it seems..."
People's Friend book club
"The novel is a sensible, straightforward, satisfying police procedural, supplying a fair variety of plausible suspects, motives and clues, in a recognisable middle England."
"Cleeves weaves an absorbingly cunning mystery..."
"[T]his welcome addition to the Vera Stanhope series is a showcase for the strengths of the author in getting under the skin of apparently ordinary people, and conveying the intense passions that have simmered for years beneath an apparently normal surface."
Maxine Clarke, Eurocrime
"Ann Cleeves is a skilful technician, keeping our interest alive and building slowly up to the denouement. Her easy use of language and clever story construction make her one of the best natural writers of detective fiction."
Woman and Home