Author: Ann Cleeves
Published: September 2022 by Macmillan
Category: Murder, Mystery, Crime, Contemporary Fiction
Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.
Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .
Close friends since their schooldays, Annie, Rick, Philip, Ken and Louise have been meeting at Pilgrim’s Retreat on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne every five years since meeting and bonding there for the first time when they were students. During the first reunion, Isobel, one of the original group, was caught off guard by the rising tide along the causeway and died. She’d tried to leave after an argument, didn’t take the tide into consideration and her car had been swept away.
They’d all forged their own lives and careers – Philip was a priest, Rick had been a celebrity journalist before being sacked with a sexual assault complaint hanging over him. Ken is suffering from dementia and is cared for by his wife, Louise. Annie is part owner of a bakery and has taken on the role of looking after everyone.
The most vivid memory was of the weekend when they’d first come together on the island. Only Connect, the teacher had called it. Part outward bound course, part encounter group, part team-building session. And there had been a connection, so strong and fierce that after fifty years the tie was still there, unbroken and still worth celebrating. This was where it had all started.
The next memory was of a death and a life cut short.
Rick doesn’t seem particularly fazed by the circumstances surrounding the loss of his job, and is full of the plans he has for a book. But the next morning Rick is found dead in what appears to be a suicide.
DI Vera Stanhope is called out and her suspicions are aroused as she surveys the scene. Along with DS Joe Ashworth and DC Holly Clarke, Vera begins the investigation and, as they discover more about the friends’ lives and uncover secrets, the team are placed in more danger than they ever could have imagined.
Followers of the series will be well acquainted with the main characters, the others are also well fleshed out with a good sense of their personalities. More people connected to the friends’ group are brought into the investigation, including the Police Commissioner. Vera’s appearance is deceptive, people who are unaware tend not to see past her shabby appearance to the sharp mind and innate tenacity, and are very often taken by surprise. The Holy Island setting is hugely atmospheric, with swirling mists and a life dictated to by the tide. An excellent addition to the series.
Joe thought it was odd to drive off the island. It was as if he were shifting from somewhere dreamlike, made up of water and shimmering light, back to the real world, solid and mundane.
Ann’s DI Vera Stanhope series of books is set in Northumberland and features the well loved detective along with her partner Joe Ashworth. Ann’s Shetland series bring us DI Jimmy Perez, investigating in the mysterious, dark, and beautiful Shetland Islands… In 2006 Ann Cleeves was the first winner of the prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award of the Crime Writers’ Association for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland Quartet. The Duncan Lawrie Dagger replaces the CWA’s Gold Dagger award, and the winner receives £20,000, making it the world’s largest award for crime fiction.
Ann’s books have been translated into sixteen languages. She’s a bestseller in Scandinavia and Germany. Her novels sell widely and to critical acclaim in the United States. Raven Black was shortlisted for the Martin Beck award for best translated crime novel in Sweden.