At this point, Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope has become one of the most beloved crime fiction characters of all time. Vera has appeared in nine novels, many short stories, and a highly successful television series where she is vividly brought to life by the legendary Brenda Blethyn. Never one to rest on her laurels, Ann Cleeves releases the tenth Vera Stanhope Mystery – The Rising Tide – today, once again proving that it is possible to keep a long-running series fresh and to uncover new depths within a character readers cherish.
Ann Cleeves briefly introduced readers to Holy Island in the recent short story “The Woman on the Island.” Readers of that story or those familiar with the area will remember that Holy Island is connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway that routinely floods, isolating the residents on the island twice a day. Being a veteran crime fiction author, Ann Cleeves recognized this as the perfect setting for a closed-circle mystery and crafted a complex and compelling storyline centered on the location.
For fifty years, a group of former schoolmates who once spent a weekend on the island, have re-gathered again on the island every five years for a reunion. The first of these reunions was marred by a tragic accident that took the life of one of their group, imbuing this regular pilgrimage with an air of tribute to their fallen friend, but make no mistake this is also a time to let loose and have some fun. Not all of the group find the reminder enjoyable, so the group has dwindled to five regulars.
Vera Stanhope is called in when another of this group of friends dies during their most recent reunion – the victim of an apparent suicide. But Vera is not convinced, and she calls her team of DS Joe Ashworth and DC Holly Clarke to Holy Island to help her investigate. The case will lead them to the past of this particular group, even some of those who no longer attend the regular reunions – including other fellow students, spouses, and one particularly-involved teacher.
The cast of characters in The Rising Tide is huge, but Ann Cleeves is a skilled storyteller, able to distill everything down to the most essential facts to ease the reader’s consumption. The tangled threads that connect these suspects are fifty years in the making, so eagle-eyed readers will need to pay close attention if they hope to stay ahead of Vera on this case. Early chapters slowly build the framework for what will eventually become a nail-biting conclusion full of revelations and devastating losses.
The Rising Tide is perfect for both fans of the series and for new readers just being introduced to Vera Stanhope and her team. The isolated location of this crime keeps Vera from relying on those co-workers back at the station and allows her to strengthen her already formidable bond with Joe and possibly gain additional grudging respect between herself and Holly.
Like all the Vera Stanhope novels, The Rising Tide, is a first-class example of a traditional mystery with a beloved lead character; her strong, but flawed team; a host of three-dimensional suspects involved in a multifaceted crime; a distinct and memorable location; and ultimately, a satisfying and shocking resolution with long lasting ramifications. Crime readers cannot ask for much more than that.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.