By Ann Cleeves
For the past 50 years, a group of former classmates have returned to Holy Island (Lindisfarne) where they first bonded as teens during a weekend course, Only Connect.
The brain child of a new and enthusiastic teacher, Judith Marshall, the course gave the students a chance to get to know each other, discuss life and great ideas and get drunk. The intense weekend led to two marriages and a repeat reunion every five years after.
When Annie Laidler discovers the body of Rick Kelsall hanging in his room in the latest reunion, it appears to be suicide. Rick had recently lost his job at the BBC in a cloud of accusations of sexual misconduct. That hadn’t dimmed his confidence, charisma and braggadocio. In fact, he seemed energized by a new project: a fictional thriller he planned to write.
“You’ll find our pasts very much brought back to life. All our secrets, actually finally seeing the light of day,” he tells one former classmate.
Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope quickly realizes that Rick’s death is not suicide at all — it’s murder.
And it’s also not the first death that has taken place among this group of classmates. At the first, Isobel Hall had been seen having a loud argument with Rick before she stormed off in her car and attempted to cross the causeway that connects the island with the mainland before the tide came in.
She didn’t make it. Her car apparently was carried off the road by the rising tide and she was drowned.
Is there a connection between the two deaths, Vera wonders.
Before Vera can get to the bottom of that question, there’s another murder: Rick’s ex-wife, Charlotte Thomas, whose father is part of a once-active crime family. After she graduated, she became a famous model and minor actress. Her celebrity has waned and her life coaching and wellness business is no longer thriving. She is found strangled on the floor of her yoga studio.
Setting this mystery on the Holy Island of Lindsfarne in northeastern England was a stroke of genius. The setting is intimate and atmospheric. Twice a day when the tide comes in, residents and visitors are trapped on the island with no easy way off or on to it.
All of the people closest to Rick — his friends at the reunion — seem unlikely candidates as killers. Philip Robson is a vicar; Ken Hampton is a former head teacher suffering from Alzheimer’s and cared for by his wife, Louisa, also a former teacher. Annie Laidler is part owner of a popular local deli.
This is an engaging mystery. Vera is working in communities she grew up in and knows well. Her maternal manner with witnesses and suspects is well juxtaposed against her keen and inquiring mind.
Author Ann Cleeves is a writer you can depend on for consistently suspenseful and entertaining mysteries. Her books are well-written with characters you want to follow through the series. This one is no exception.
THE RISING TIDE is the 10th book in the Vera Stanhope series. The earlier books in the series (in order) were:
- THE CROW TRAP
- TELLING TALES
- HIDDEN DEPTHS
- SILENT VOICES
- THE GLASS ROOM
- HARBOUR STREET
- THE MOTH CATCHER
- THE SEAGULL
- THE DARKEST EVENING
- THE WOMAN ON THE ISLAND
Another book set on Lindsfarne is L.J. Ross’s HOLY ISLAND.
The Author: Ann Cleeves OBE ( 1954 – )
Ann Cleeves is a British mystery and crime writer known for her Vera Stanhope, Jimmy Perez and Matthew Venn series. All three have been adapted into TV shows.
She has won numerous awards including the 2017 Cartier Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers’ Association for “sustained excellence” in crime fiction. In the 2022 New Year Honours, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to reading and libraries.
Widowed, she lives in Whitley Bay and has two daughters.