As dependable a treat as the coldest, sweetest, ice-cream on a summer day, any book by Ann Cleeves, including this hot-off-the-press installment (#10) in the glorious #Vera series, will not disappoint.
Vera, back with all the brash, brave, headstrong (and unabashedly offensively-leaning) determination she brings to any crime-solving venture, has her hands full with this murder spree on a remote causeway, which is closed off from the mainland for large portions of each day by the predictably-moody advance of the swirling tides. Known locally as “Holy Island”, this austere setting hosts an equally-austere former convent, “Pilgrim House”, home to the five-year reunions of a group of former school chums, now fifty-years into their recurring visits.
Secrets held for decades struggle to be contained as our cast of characters (many of them now in various stages of decline as they face life in their early sixties), assembles, the past reigniting “the tensions and stresses of the present’.
And what a fascinating cast it is – including (but not limited to):
A priest now nearing retirement; a duo of beautiful sisters (one mysteriously deceased); a twice-divorced journalist ostracized and shamed (but not prosecuted) for being “too free with his hands”; a dementia sufferer and his practical, steely-willed wife; a timid deli-owner and her charismatic Heathcliff-ian (and recently moneyed) ex husband.
As the plot (amidst the ever-present backdrop of the tide) ebbs and flows, and bodies begin to accumulate, puzzling and increasingly maddening to Vera and her crime-solving team, the author strikes a contemplative tone – touching on themes including the poignancy of aging, loss, grief, loneliness and the hidden shame of secrets and lies.
As Vera (unusually vulnerable as we observe her envy of the elderly group of suspects in their closeness, camaraderie and connection), is driven to her own musings and emotional memories, it’s impossible not to feel, with her and for her, a wistfulness and a sense of impending foreboding – of aging and “time slipping by” – as it seeps out over the rising tide, leaving her (and the bookish observer), inevitably “stranded, and alone”.
Not to be missed, a satisfying and delectable addition to an already wonderful series, I loved this book, leaving me looking forward to more and more of Vera and her team, and quite literally, any work by this author (one of my absolute favorites).
A great big thank you to #NetGalley, the author and the publisher for an ARC of this novel. All thoughts presented are my own.