The Long Call a major event
All four episodes of The Long Call, a dramatisation of the first book in the Two Rivers series, were broadcast in the UK in the week beginning Monday 25th October, and the whole series is available on demand on the ITV Hub. In the US, streaming starts on Britbox on October 28th.
Ann says "I do feel a bit overwhelmed - both The Long Call and Shetland on this autumn. Wild Britain in all its glory from the Northern Isles to the West Country, beautifully filmed. I'm a very lucky bunny." Here, she introduces the characters - and the landscape - of the Two Rivers series:
Silverprint Pictures had already released a first portrait of Matthew Venn (played by Ben Aldridge (Our Girl, Fleabag) and his colleague Jen Rafferty (Pearl Mackie, best known for her work in Doctor Who, where she played the role of the Doctor's companion, Bill Potts, opposite Peter Capaldi).
Ann says: "I can't think of anyone who could play Matthew Venn better than Ben Aldridge. He will bring an authenticity and commitment to the rôle. I always hoped that the actor chosen would come from Devon, where the books are set, and he does."
Directed by Lee Haven Jones (Doctor Who, Shetland, The Bay) The Long Call follows Detective Inspector Matthew Venn, who has returned to live in a small community in North Devon with his husband, Jonathan (Declan Bennett). Matthew was brought up in the Barum Brethren before leaving to go to University. At 19 he knew he couldn't continue amongst the community and to his mother's shock and dismay, he declared publicly he no longer believed. Now he's back, not just to grieve for his father, but to lead a shocking murder investigation back where it all began for him. Matthew is now forced to re-engage with the community he left, including the most painful and challenging of relationships, with his mother Dorothy played by award-winning actress Juliet Stevenson (Truly Madly, Deeply).
This powerful and thought-provoking series also features Martin Shaw as the spiritual Brethren leader Dennis Stephenson and Anita Dobson who plays Grace Stephenson. Adding to the illustrious cast are Dylan Edwards as DC Ross Pritchard, Pearce Quigley as DCI Joe Oldham, Neil Morrissey as Christopher Reasley, Sarah Gordy as Lucy Craddle, Alan Williams as Maurice Craddle and Amit Shah as Ed Raveley.
The four-part event dramatisation of The Long Call comes from Silverprint Pictures, the company that has already produced Shetland (BBC) and Vera (ITV), two of television's most popular dramas based on previous crime series by Ann Cleeves. It is co-produced with BritBox North America.
ITV's Head of Drama, Polly Hill, decribed the new series as a character-led, atmospheric crime drama, driven by an intriguing and flawed protagonist. She commented: "I'm delighted that ITV is working with Silverprint Pictures to bring another of Ann's brilliant novels to screen. It's very different to Vera, but I think audiences will take to DI Matthew Venn and this compelling story in the same way. Kelly [Jones] has written a wonderful adaptation and this promises to be a really distinctive and original new crime series."
Ben Aldridge said: "I'm delighted to be playing Matthew Venn, a brilliantly unorthodox detective who audiences will see solving a gripping and intricate case, whilst simultaneously surmounting a deeper, more personal mystery within himself. It's a poignant and complex journey of self-discovery and sexual and religious identity, which navigates the tension between pride and shame, and I feel privileged to be bringing it to ITV viewers in The Long Call."
The Return of Matthew Venn
Meanwhile, readers can be ahead of the game, with not one but two mysteries in the series already on bookshops!
In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, a rare hot summer brings tourists flocking to the coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder - Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter's broken vases.
Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He's a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.
"This character-driven exploration of people's darkest flaws is a sterling example of Cleeves' formidable talents."
Read more about The Heron's Cry, the second in Ann Cleeves's Two Rivers series.
New readers start here ...
Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father's funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.
Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death. The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.
The Long Call won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel published in 2019. It was chosen by the Library Journal as one of their crime books of the year, and was longlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year award.
More about The Long Call.