“The Woman on the Island” is Ann Cleeves’ most recent short story. While the tale is extremely brief, it does help to fill in some backstory on Vera Stanhope’s past relationship with her father, Hector.
Needing a respite from her police duties, Vera takes what she hopes will be a relaxing trip to Holy Island, however, the visit causes her to remember an incident from when she was a teenager. On that occasion, Hector met with a woman on this very island and Vera was determined to figure out why.
In a nice subtle Easter Egg, I have to imagine this woman from Vera’s past – Judith Laidlaw – is named in homage to the detective created by Willian McIllvanney, certainly one of the most influential crime writers to come out of Scotland.
In addition to allowing readers to witness further interaction between Vera and Hector, Ann Cleeves uses this premise to give readers a glimpse into why Vera chooses to join the police force and what such a career decision meant for women at the time.
Perhaps most importantly, this short story also provides an early look at the central location for the next Ann Cleeves novel. Like “The Woman on the Island,” the crime at the core of The Rising Tide will occur on Holy Island, a destination that is repeatedly cut off from the mainland by the high tides that occur in the causeway each day.
This is a clever way to give readers a sense of what Holy Island is like, while also hooking them in for the next full-length Vera Stanhope mystery. Check back soon for a review of The Rising Tide.
In “The Girls on the Shore,” Ann Cleeves throws a quick case at both Matthew Venn and Jen Rafferty – beloved characters from her Two Rivers series.
When Matthew spots two young girls wander the beach alone, he immediately senses that something is not right. After talking with the girls, he learns that their mother stopped the car and walked away, leaving them alone for quite some time.
Sure that his colleague Jen Rafferty will have a better connection with these girls, he calls her in as he sets out to find the missing mother. That decision opens case that will end can only end when a tragic truth coming to light.
In addition to this fascinating case, this brief story helps to further flesh out the characters of Matthew and Jen. Fans of that series will enjoy getting to know them better outside the context of a larger novel’s plot.