Ann Cleeves: The Rising Tide

I came late to the Vera Stanhope party, but I am a complete convert.  Whenever she says “Not to worry, pet,” she reminds me so much of my beloved Columbo and his “Just one more thing.”  In this outing, Ann Cleeves does something else she excels at: setting.  This book is set on the remote British island of Lindisfarne, or “Holy Island,” a place not actually an island, but one that becomes an island thanks to rising and falling tides.  That particular detail could not have a more beloved place in the mystery genre, and Ann Cleeves, the ace of setting, does it better than anyone else. read more

Best of 2021

There are two authors whose work is so consistently excellent I don’t add them to my best of lists anymore, but I can tell you that William Kent Krueger’s prequel to his Cork O’Connor series, Lightning Strike, is beautifully written, felt and told; and Louise Penny’s The Madness of Crowds, a sly look at devotees of a flawed charismatic leader, is a beautiful read.  Both writers have a quality of heart and spirit that give their books an extra something, and their main characters, Cork O’Connor and Armand Gamache, are beloved by readers. Soon to join these two are Elly Griffiths and Ann Cleeves, both of whom turned in stellar reads this year (see below).  I invite readers to cast their reading nets a bit wider and consider some of these other fine titles.  These are all books that stayed with me and left me thinking after I finished them. read more

Ann Cleeves: The Heron’s Cry

This novel will be published on September 7.

The second in Ann Cleeves’ Detective Mathew Venn series finds Matthew investigating a case on the grounds of an artist’s colony and farm.  The book opens with a party attended by a very drunk Detective Jen Rafferty, who meets the victim at the party, but didn’t talk to him for long because of her condition – something she comes to regret.

The dead man, Nigel Yeo, was a doctor who worked with people who had complaints about National Health.  He is discovered with a huge shard of glass in his neck, glass created by his glassblower daughter, Eve.  This incredibly fabulist method of death is carried forward. Ann Cleeves, the most careful and meticulous of writers, nevertheless includes this almost gothic flight of fancy as a murder method.  It suits her updated golden age style of storytelling. read more

Ann Cleeves: The Darkest Evening

This book will be published on September 8.  You can pre-order it here.

Along with Deborah Crombie, Peter Robinson, and Louise Penny, Ann Cleeves is one of the very best writers of traditional detective fiction at work at the moment.  With now three strong series to her credit, one of the most delightful features the cranky Vera Stanhope, whose hopelessly messy and unstylish appearance conceals a sharp and perceptive mind.  She’s Columbo in the British countryside, just a shade less congenial.  This installment finds Vera face to face with the fancier branch of her family, impoverished landholders who can’t keep up the stately family home. read more

Best of 2019

I couldn’t keep it to 10 this year – can I ever?  My taste does tend toward the traditional and historical fiction side of things, so that’s mostly reflected here.  And a note: Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land, while not strictly a mystery, can definitely be enjoyed by his mystery loving fans.  Quite simply, it’s the best book of 2019 of any variety, and I hope everyone reads it.  I am looking to read it again myself.

There was lots to love this year!  Some long-awaited returns (S.J. Rozan), some debuts (Melanie Golding, Allison Montclair, Jess Montgomery), some trying a different format or series (Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths), and of course some solid entries in already great series (Benn, Bowen, Jones, Massey, Shaber). Lots of great, passionate, spectacular writing.  I love being a mystery reader! read more

Ann Cleeves: The Long Call

Ann Cleeves wrapped up her stellar Shetland series and has turned her hand and eye to Devon, a British resort area where of course she finds out what’s lurking under the surface. She introduces the reader to detective Matthew Venn, who has a complex backstory that would seem to lend itself to further discovery in more books down the road.

Matthew is a bit OCD, reminding me slightly of Margaret Maron’s great creation, Sigrid Harald. He was raised by parents who were members of a Christian cult and when he renounced their faith he was banned from their lives. He’s married to the lively, artistic and sometimes messy Jonathan, who runs the local center for art and disabled adults. The odd combination of artistic pursuit and mental health and disabled adult care seems to work well and the center is a lively place, important to many families in town. read more