Now this is one really big hitter – the latest in the acclaimed DI Vera Stanhope series, which has become as well-known for the TV series it spawned as it has the books!
This is the tenth book, and naturally it’s set in Ann Cleeves’ (and Vera’s!) beloved Northumberland – this time on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. Now, I’m not a big fan of TV crime, preferring the written word, but Ann Cleeves’ series all make for unmissable viewing – particularly Vera, where Brenda Blethyn brings the oft-times crabbit, and always single-minded, character, so wonderfully to life!
We’ve had a blizzard of island-based “locked room” mysteries, from Lucy Foley to Sarah Pearse to Chris Brookmyre, and here one of the queens of modern-day crime gives us her version.
And what’s the storyline here?
A group, who first met fifty years ago on a local school trip, get together on the island every five years to mark the anniversary of that first meeting. On the first reunion, one of their number, Isobel Hall, died while attempting to make her way across the causeway too late, with her car “tossed from the road like a toy,” as a stormy tide encroached upon it. An event that could have ended the reunions there and then appeared to cement them, curiously enough.
On this latest occasion Rick Kelsall, a journalist who’d recently lost his job at the BBC for inappropriate behaviour towards younger female colleagues, is found hanged naked in an open bathrobe in his room by Annie Laidler, one of his closest friends. Immediately Annie – who still lived locally and was well-known as a part-owner of local artisan deli, Bread And Olives, questions the notoriously vain Rick’s question to hang himself with his naked sixty-something body on show, but she simply assumed he was heavily depressed at losing his celebrity status. However, as he had recently been given a book deal, that assumption doesn’t really hold water.
Who else was present?
There was Philip Robson, an Anglican vicar who was based in London, and Ken Hampton, an ex-headteacher who was succumbing to dementia, and who was married to Lou, who was also an ex-alumni of Kimmerston Grammar, albeit three years younger, and who attended the reunions with her husband. Previous reunions had included babies, then children, then teenagers, now all grown, as well as partners come and gone, and had now reverted to the original core group.
Others connected to this group and living on the island include Rick’s ex-wife, the former model, now owner of a yoga salon, Charlotte; the group’s original teacher, now retired, Judith Marshall; Annie’s ex-husband and now local businessman, Daniel Rede; and his new partner and local Police and Crime Commissioner (!) Katherine Willmore.
And Rick’s will, when revealed, only adds to the mystery…
Does Vera have any early ideas?
It’s no spoiler that Vera’s determined from more or less as soon as she knows she’s dealing with a murder, that the answer in one place: the past. So her investigation concentrates on the relationships between the group, and what happened, from that first school trip, then the reunion which saw Isobel’s death, right up until the present day.
And the real strength in this book lies, as it does in all of Ann Cleeves’ novels I’ve read, in the characters: both from those early days, and in their development. There’s always, in all her books, such an air of authenticity to them all: they feel real, as do the crimes and their motives. I have to say, too, that this book has an absolutely killer conclusion, if you’ll excuse the pun! Cleeves has outdone herself on this occasion!
It’s always hugely enjoyable to come across Joe (DS Ainsworth) and Holly (DC Clarke) again, and their slight rivalry for Vera’s favour – it’s become like meeting old friends. And references to Vera’s childhood, and her difficult relationship with her father, as well as her classmates, remind us that Vera’s real skill lies in examining the worst of human nature, as one who has experienced some parts of it at first hand, and in so figuring out who is responsible for the very worst of it: who, behind their carefully applied mask, is a murderer?
Just when you think she won’t get any better, Ann Cleeves hits you with another utter belter – perfect for long time fans, or those new to one of the best in British crime writing!
With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Pan Macmillan for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of the book, and this review reflects my honest opinion.
The unmistakeable Ann Cleeves
Do check out what my fellow bloggers and Instagrammers make of The Rising Tide!
BLURB: Vera Stanhope, star of ITV’s Vera, returns in the tenth novel in number one bestseller Ann Cleeves’ acclaimed series.
Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.
Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .
But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . . .