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by Ann Cleeves
Minotaur, September 2022
384 pages
ISBN: 1250204534

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ann Cleeves has delivered another tour-de-force mystery in THE RISING TIDE, her latest addition to the Vera Stanhope series. When a group of aging college friends returns to remote Holy Island off the Northumberland coast for their regular five-year reunion, someone dies. Rick Kelsall is found hanged in his room. Rick has recently lost his high-profile media position because of allegations of harassment. Is his death a a suicide, or is it murder, as dumpy, overweight, blunt but brilliant Detective Inspector Vera quickly perceives it to be? Like an Agatha Christie tale where someone is murdered in a large gathering, there are multiple suspects. An apparent accidental death that occurred at their first reunion forty-five years ago might not be what it had appeared to be at that time and might also be relevant to the current murder. A beautiful but impetuous young woman named Isobel had died when her car was swept off the island's causeway at high tide. Her sister Louisa, who was there at that time, attends the reunion, along with her husband Ken, now suffering the beginnings of dementia. Other members of the group include Phil, now a vicar, and Annie, who works in a high-end café and possibly had a fling with Rick.

As with other books by this author, the natural world plays a large part, both in the sense of place and in the actual unfolding of events. Holy Island is reached by a causeway that is only accessible at low tide. Careful planning is required to pay attention to the timing of one's crossing, with tide charts posted on the causeway. Yet people always risk it, thinking they can cross at the last minute. This island and its causeway really exist, and a recent New York Times article discussed this ongoing misadventure, with people needing rescue.

Cleeves other talent is in creating fully rounded characters with emotional depth and complicated backgrounds and relationships. Their secrets, their hidden guilt, their loves and animosities and how they have betrayed each other in the past are slowly brought to the forefront. Each of the two young detectives who work with Vera has a complicated relationship with her, but each wants to help her, even to the point of risking grave injury. We become attached to them and want them to succeed.

There are so many suspects, so many plausible possibilities and scenarios that even the most careful, clue-obsessed reader cannot guess the real murderer. But we have learned never to underestimate the investigative genius of Vera Stanhope, even when she is mistaken for a bag lady or a cleaning woman. She puts herself in jeopardy to uncover the murderer, and only at the very end do we find out who and why. The almost deadly denouement is most satisfying.

§ Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, September 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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