Book reviews: Fat, middle-aged detective returns

Brenda Blethyn plays dishevelled sleuth Vera Stanhope on TV

The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves, published in hardback by Macmillan

FAT, middle-aged detective Vera Stanhope seems an unlikely heroine. But the dishevelled sleuth has won millions of fans through Ann Cleeves's gritty crime thrillers, and the TV adaptation starring Brenda Blethyn.

In the seventh and latest book, Vera is investigating a double murder in a sleepy Northumberland village. The victims make an unlikely pair, with one a fresh-faced graduate and the other an older 'grey man' – and no obvious connection between the two.

There are no gimmicky plot devices here, as Cleeves, also author of the popular Shetland series which has been adapted for television too, shows she is the master of innuendo, smooth prose and deeply drawn characters. Equally enjoyable is the sub-plot, poking fun at 'retired hedonists' in their 60s who party harder than their children.

If there is a successor to Ruth Rendell's alter-ego Barbara Vine, it must surely be Ann Cleeves; she certainly proves it with this humorous, meaty read.

Gill Oliver

Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will by Geoff Colvin, published in hardback by Nicolas Brealey

DESPITE the reassuring title, the first few chapters of Humans Are Underrated present a bleak picture of the future for humans in the world of work.

Geoff Colvin, a senior editor at Fortune magazine and author of Talent Is Overrated, demonstrates that the impressive and quickening pace of technological progress means workers who thought their jobs could never be replaced by machines could find in the not-too-distant future that they too have reason to feel threatened by the rapid advance of infotech – he refers to gardeners and lawyers, cooks and managers.

Stick with Colvin though, and what follows is an insightful exploration of the uniquely human qualities that should ensure there's always a place for humanity in business. Inspirational case studies show how to get the best out of people by tapping into particularly human skills, and highlight that much more can be made of these skills now; why wait for an uprising of the machines?

Steph Williams


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