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THE RISING TIDE by Ann Cleeves: Book Review

Holy Island.  With a name like that, you wouldn’t think anything evil could happen there, would you?  But you’d be wrong, very wrong.

It’s been fifty years since a group of teenagers were taken to the Island’s Pilgrims’ House as part of a school project called Only Connect.  Their small group, led by their teacher Judith Marshall, consisted of Philip, Annie, Charlotte, Dan, Ken, Rick, and Isobel.  Isobel was the glamorous one who never made it off the island alive.

The remaining group is back on Holy Island; they have held their reunions there every five years since that first gathering.  A lot has happened since then, including two marriages and one divorce.

Lou joined the group later when she and Ken married; Lou is not only his wife but now his caretaker, as Ken is suffering from dementia.  Annie and Dan were married but have been divorced for many years.  Rick was a successful television personality until a number of women made his inappropriate sexual behavior public and he lost his program.  Philip is a priest in the Church of England, never married and lonely.  Charlotte, formerly a model and divorced from Rick, now runs a yoga and lifestyle center on the Island but never attends the reunions.

There is a ritual to the stay on the Island.  As always, the first night the six gather on Holy Island’s Pilgrims’ House chapel for twenty minutes of silent meditation, then have their meal, which was always brought by Annie, the co-owner of the well-regarded local deli Bread and Olives.  They reminisce, dance, and drink, and the next morning Annie finds Rick hanging from a beam in his room.

The call goes out to Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope.  Although it’s first thought by the other group members and the pathologist who arrives to pronounce Rick officially dead that he committed suicide, Vera has a different opinion.  From what she knows about the deceased, she tells Dr. Keating that “I can buy him killing himself.  But not like this.  Not in a shabby dressing gown, showing an ageing body to the world.”  And, of course, the autopsy proves Vera right.

Now, five decades after the first death, the murders continue.  As Vera confronts the killer and listens to the justification of the murders, she gets a glimpse into the murderer’s soul and the ruthlessness behind the deaths.  And then she almost becomes the next victim.

Reading Vera Stanhope novels always takes the reader to Scotland, this time to a piece of land that becomes an island twice a day due to the rising tide.  It’s the perfect setting for the sinister murders that take place, all in the name of self-protection.

Ann Cleeves is the author of more than thirty novels, including the Jimmy Perez, Vera Stanhope, and Matthew Venn series, as well as more than thirty short stories.  The three series have been adapted for television by the BBC.  You can read more about her at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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