The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves — A Vera Stanhope Novel (Mystery)

Writing: 3.5/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 5/5
A group of friends have been meeting for reunions on Holy Island for fifty years. One — a particularly obnoxious media star who just lost his job due to a #metoo style accusation — is surprisingly upbeat with a new plan he is hatching. At least until he is found hanging in his room the next morning. Suicide? He didn’t seem the type but … Vera has to untangle a pile of messy relationships and a forty year old tragedy before she gets to the bottom of it. I didn’t figure out whodunnit until very near the end.

I’m a long time fan of the ITV Vera series, but this is the first book (number 10) that I’ve read and ,it was completely impossible to put down! There is a lot more (interesting) depth on the team dynamics and internal states of the main characters — definitely not apparent in the TV series. But Cleeves’ real strength lies in her stories — perfect pacing of new information twisting and shifting current assumptions. No filler (i.e. no gratuitous taking of tea, repeating what everyone knows twenty times to other characters, etc) — constantly kept my brain engaged in trying to figure things out. Some very interesting political commentary as asides to the story — not your standard PC or standard non-PC Stuff.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on September 6th, 2022.

The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves (Mystery / audio book)

This is the second book in Cleeves’ new Two Rivers series. The series is already slated to follow predecessors Vera and Shetland into (my) favorite British mystery shows.

An elaborately staged murder — the weapon, a beautiful piece of glass crafted by the victim’s daughter is the first murder to intrude on the idyllic North Devon countryside, but it won’t be the last. Detective Matthew Venn — calm and focused, works with colleagues Jen Rafferty (a now-single mom of two who left Liverpool and an abusive husband to come to Devon) and Ross May, a local boy.

I haven’t read any of Cleeves’ earlier books, but I have watched all of the mini series. What I really liked about reading (listening) to this one is how much depth her characters have. I liked that all the background and ongoing personal lives were integrated into the action — which after all is what life is like. I particularly liked that her characters have depth but are not overflowing with repetitive faults, as in so many of the newer TV series — I suppose that’s to make us readers / watchers happier about our own faults but I would prefer to engage with realistic characters who work to improve themselves than with screw ups who make me feel better about myself.

This was an audio book — the first I’ve ever reviewed. The reader — Jack Holden — was excellent. He read at exactly the right pace (so many readers are simply too slow), a lovely British accent, and good at doing the various accents and voices so that it was always clear who was doing the speaking. I’m not a huge audio book person — I read so fast that an audio book just takes far too long — so I’m very picky about readers and this is one I’d be happy to listen to again.

Complex characters, twisted plot, beautiful environment — I’m definitely going back to read book one and look forward to the ITV series.