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Book Author: Ann Cleeves

THE RAGING STORM by Ann Cleeves: Book Review

For Detective Inspector Matthew Venn, going home is always difficult.  Greystone is close enough to where he grew up to bring back unhappy memories.  It’s where his parents belonged to the ultra-conservative Barum Brethren, an evangelical Christian group in Scotland he left when he was eighteen.

But, of course, Matt must go where his job leads him, and now it’s to the small village where the naked body of famous adventurer Jem Rosco was found.  Rosco had grown up in Greystone, but since he became a world-wide celebrity, known for sailing around the world solo, trekking to the North and South Poles, and walking up the Amazon, he hadn’t returned.

Then, suddenly, a few weeks before his death, he walked into the local pub, the Maiden’s Prayer, had two pints and left.  But he returned every night after that, saying in response to questions, “I’m here to meet someone….I’m expecting them any day.”

It’s a strange case, Matt thinks.  The lack of blood in the small dinghy in which he was found shows he wasn’t murdered there, so why did the murderer send out a Mayday call to make certain the body was discovered?

Those living in Greystone rarely leave and move to other places, so there are still many people who knew Rosco when he was a small child and then a schoolboy.  They all have a story or an opinion to share with Venn and his team:  Mary Ford, who wrote numerous fan letters to him when she was a teenager and he was already famous; Mary’s father Alan, desperate for funding to send his grandson to the United States for medical treatment that he believes will save the boy’s life; Sammy Barton, who says Jem had a reputation as a “bit of a cocky bastard” even as a teenager; Davy Gregory, part-time taxi driver who picked Jem up at the railway station and brought him to Greystone and whose father was forced to sell the cottage where Jem had been staying; Barty Lawson, commodore of the town’s sailing club who describes the deceased as an “irritating oik” who never quite fit in; Eleanor Lawson, the woman Rosco named his first boat after; and his former wife Selina, who describes him as “a charmer” who believed all his own fantasies.

There is a strong sense of claustrophobia in The Raging Storm.  Some of that is due to the smallness and isolation of the village, and some is due to the hurricane-like storm that is cutting Greystone off from nearby towns.  There is also a sense of an almost inbred community, where families have lived for generations, doing the same work their parents and grandparents did, as well as the overwhelming influence and moral values of the Brethren.  It’s a mix that doesn’t bode well for Matt and his fellow investigators.

Ann Cleeves is a truly gifted storyteller, whether she is writing about Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, or Detective Inspector Matthew Venn.  All three series featuring these protagonists have been adapted for television.  Her characters are true-to-life, her plots are believable, and her settings take readers right to the place where the action is.

You can read more about her 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.

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.

THE HERON’S CRY by Ann Cleeves: Book Review

Can one more glass of wine hurt, Detective Jen Rafferty asks herself?
  After all, it’s a party.  Everything is a bit hazy, something she will regret the next day, but in the meantime she helps herself to another glass of red.

A serious-looking man joins her and introduces himself as Nigel Yeo, a surname that means he’s local to South Devon.  He describes himself as in the health field but no longer a medic, and he tells Jen he’s in “the same line of business as you.  Sort of.”  She’s intrigued, but Nigel backs off, saying he will get her number from their hostess and asking if he can call her in the morning.

But when morning comes, it’s a different phone call that Jen gets.  Her boss, Matthew Venn, tells her to come to Westacombe, a group of buildings that have evolved into a small artists’ colony.  When she arrives he tells her there’s been a murder, and when Jen sees the body she recognizes Nigel Yeo.

He was found by his daughter, Eve, in her small studio in Westacombe, with a long shard of glass protruding from his neck.  Now, more than ever, Jen wishes her recall of the night before was sharper as she tries to remember the discussion she had with Nigel and whether there were any clues to his death.

Eve is a glassblower, and the glass is from one of her pieces.  The other artist who lives in the colony is Wesley Curnow, a painter and a musician.  Along with Sarah and John Grieve and their young twin daughters, Eve and Wesley make up the tenants, and Frank Ley, a celebrated investor and philanthropist, is the owner of the land and its buildings.

Everyone agrees that Nigel was a “lovely man” who hadn’t an enemy in the world.  He had worked as a physician but had given up his practice two years earlier to care for his wife, who suffered from dementia.  After her death he changed his focus and became the head of North Devon Patients Together, an advocacy group belonging to the National Health Service.  Certainly not a dangerous position, it would seem, and yet there doesn’t seem to be anything else in Nigel’s life that would lead to murder.

Matthew Venn, Jen’s boss, is not your typical detective.  Born into the Brethren, a strict Protestant sect, he has left that sect and is now married to his husband, Jonathan.  The two men are as different as possible, with Matthew painstaking and stolid, while Jonathan is artistic and sociable.  But their marriage is a good one, and they complement each other.  Venn is highly respected by his team, and his investigative style has solved many cases in the past.  But this one has him and his colleagues stymied.

The police interview Eve, Sarah and John, Wesley, and Frank, but all either have a strong alibi or no discernible reason for Nigel’s murder.  And then there’s a second killing.

Ann Cleeves is the author of many other mysteries, including the Vera Stanhope and the Jimmy Perez/Shetland Island series, as well as many stand-alones.  Both those series have been adapted for television, and the first of the Matthew Venn series, The Long Call, has been adapted as well.  Ms. Cleeves is a talented and prolific mystery author, and The Heron’s Call is an outstanding addition to her catalog of novels.

You can read more about the author 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.