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  • The Heron's Cry

    A serialized novel by Ann Cleeves exclusively for AARP Members

    A serialized novel by Ann Cleeves exclusively for AARP Members

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Illustrations by Stan Fellows

Dear Reader,

Second crime novels are difficult. The writer hopes to bring a fresh and exciting element to the narrative, but is keen not to confuse readers who are new to the series and the characters. If the first book has captured people’s imagination, there’s also a dread of disappointing. How terrible if the second falls short in some way!

So, I’m introducing The Heron’s Cry to you with some trepidation. This series feels like an ensemble work, and we meet up again with characters who first appeared in The Long Call. The focus is on Matthew Venn, but detectives Jen Rafferty and Ross May return to form the original team. I’m delighted that Lucy Braddick and her father appear again too, and of course Jonathan, Matthew’s husband is once more at the centre of the action. This is a happy marriage, but no relationship is perfect, and the couple are forced to deal with tensions as the investigation proceeds.

The trigger for this book was the image of a glassblower, skillfully producing a beautiful piece of glass. When glass is molten it’s pliable and easy to work; when it’s cold, it’s brittle and can snap. It seemed to me that some people are similar: apparently amiable and easy to please. Then circumstances change and suddenly, they crack. It’s no coincidence that The Heron’s Cry starts with a body in a glassmaker’s studio, and that the murder weapon is a shard of handblown glass.

Thank you for reading,

Ann Cleeves


A Slow-Burn Mystery

book cover for The Heron's Cry by Ann Cleeves


Serialization — releasing a book in sequential installments, often in magazines and newspapers — has been used to build suspense for hundreds of years. Every day over the course of several weeks, three new chapters of Ann Cleeves' The Heron's Cry were released here. Serialization took advantage of the book's natural chapter arcs — and helped build the mystery before unraveling it. 

All of the chapters are available to read now. Click on the table of contents below to access them, or scroll down the page for a profile piece about the author and brief introductions of each chapter, with beautiful illustrations by Stan Fellows.

Check out more free books from AARP Members Only Access.


Meet Ann Cleeves

The book-to-TV-series maven just keeps adding to her list of best-sellers and hit TV shows. Find out more about her inspiration, her work connecting reading and health, and what's on her bookshelf.

Chapters 1-3

Jen had drunk too much. They were in Cynthia Prior’s garden, lounging on the grass, and it was just getting dark. The party had moved outside, become quieter and less frenetic. Jen could... Continue reading

Chapters 4-6

Eve looked across the table at the red-haired detective with the nasal, grating northern voice and wished she’d just f--- off and leave her alone. At this particular point in time... Continue reading


Chapters 7-9

Jen stood outside Westacombe Cottage, rang the bell and waited. The cottage was like something out of a child’s picture book, with low eaves and a thatched roof, but Jen didn’t appreciate.... Continue reading

Chapters 10-12

Sally Pengelly was waiting for Matthew in the mortuary, gowned and booted. ‘Thanks for doing this so speedily at a weekend.’ Matthew knew she had a family: a husband who was head... Continue reading

Chapters 13-15

On Sunday morning Matthew Venn woke early, as he always did. There remained the sense of unease that had nothing to do with the investigation. He’d always found work easier, certainly less... Continue reading


Chapters 16-18

Matthew left Lauren Miller's house in Appledore and drove back to Barnstaple. Dorothy Venn was waiting for him at her home. Matthew could see her peering through the window... Continue reading

Chapters 19-21

All the way back to Westacombe, Eve remained silent and still. Jonathan sat next to her in the back of the car. He put his arms around her and pulled her in close to him. He was surprised by... Continue reading

Chapters 22-24

The Sandpiper was closed all day on Mondays. ‘Our one day of rest,’ George said when Jen called to make an appointment. ‘Yes, we’ll all wait in to speak to you. Come to the house. That’s where... Continue reading


Chapters 25-27

After dropping Janey Mackenzie in Instow, Jen Rafferty made her way back to the police station. She tracked down the registered owner of the vehicle which had blocked Janey in the... Continue reading

Chapters 28-30

As he drove inland, towards the moor and Spennicott, the village where Frank Ley was considered an enemy, Matthew Venn felt like a wicked schoolboy, bunking off school. As a child he... Continue reading

Chapters 31-33

Jen Rafferty got permission from Venn to go back to Westacombe to visit Eve Yeo. ‘I just want to check she’s okay. I know a family liaison officer has kept in touch, but she’s had such a tough... Continue reading


Chapters 34-36

Jonathan woke early and had been for a swim before Matthew got up. It had become a ritual in these hot, heavy days, a quick run into the sea, a kickstart to the morning. It set him up for the... Continue reading

Chapters 37-39

Ross found the whole Mackenzie family together in the Sandpiper. Venn had asked him to notify them of Frank Ley’s death: ‘They were friends and another suicide will hit them badly... Continue reading

Chapters 40-42

Jen stayed at home long enough to have breakfast with the kids. Since Nigel Yeo’s murder they’d all been working ridiculous hours and no way would the overtime budget stretch to cover... Continue reading


Chapters 43-45

Jonathan was in his office, focused on spreadsheets and the minutes from the last trustees’ meeting, and didn’t realize that Eve was late until an extra half hour had passed. It wasn’t like her... Continue reading

Chapters 46-48

Matthew Venn had completed his search of the attics when he heard footsteps echoing on the steps below him. The Woodyard still felt industrial here, ramshackle and bare, all exposed... Continue reading

Chapters 49-50

After breakfast, Matthew drove home across Braunton Great Marsh, past the pools rich with wading birds and waterfowl. The grey heron still stood, solitary and motionless, its... Continue reading


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