An Easter Egg from Vera
Vera returned to UK television on Easter Sunday (April 5th), at 8.00 pm, with a new series of four full-length original dramas, starring Brenda Blethyn as Ann Cleeves' brilliant but unconventional detective, DCI Vera Stanhope. Next Sunday, April 12th, Episode 2: Old Wounds looks back to the Miners' Strike of 1984. DCI Vera Stanhope was a rookie police officer back then and she knows old wounds run deep: "There's no love for the police around here - they've got long memories, there's not much forgiveness," she tells her bolshie sidekick Aiden Healy.
Kenny Doughty made his debut as DS Aiden Healy in the first episode of the series, Changing Tides (if you missed it, there's still time to watch Changing Tides on the iPlayer). Interviewed during the filming, Brenda Blethyn said: "I am so happy to be embarking on series five of Vera and whilst I'll miss David Leon (Joe Ashworth finally got his long awaited promotion - Celine was delighted!), I'm very glad to be reunited with Jon Morrison, Riley Jones, Cush Jumbo and our new member of the team Kenny Doughty. Northumberland, here we come!"
Brenda Blethyn talked to The Journal about playing Vera - and about getting to grips with Joe Ashworth's replacement, DS Aiden Healy (played by the "absolutely adorable" Kenny Doughty).
Author Ann Cleeves is delighted to have Brenda Blethyn playing the part of Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope: "She absolutely captures the spirit of the character," she says. &Now, I hear her voice when I'm writing dialogue for the books. She has that wit, humour and a touch of cruelty. I don't see Brenda so much because my vision of Vera is uglier than Brenda, even dressed-down Brenda, but I do hear Brenda's voice in my head." In a recent interview, Ann admitted that sometimes Brenda tells her things about Vera that she hadn't known herself!
Vera: latest books
Ann Cleeves's unglamourous but brilliant detective, DI Vera Stanhope, isn't forgotten, either: a review of Harbour Street, Vera's sixth and latest case, was the most visited by readers of the Crime Fiction Lover website, making it their Favourite Crime Novel of 2014.
Harbour Street, now also available in paperback, concerns the mysterious death of pensioner Margaret Krukowksi on a busy Newcastle Metro train at the height of rush hour, which leads Vera to a quiet street in a run down seaside town, and a tight knit community living in the shadow of a long-held, explosive secret. There's a key rôle for Joe, too, as he struggles to maintain a professional distance when his daughter is named as key witness in the case.
Writing on the Book Oxygen website, N.J. Cooper said "There is no shirking of the miseries and cruelties of real life in this series, but Cleeves displays them without resorting to any graphic violence. She has always rendered the landscape and inhabitants of the North East of England with a quiet skill but there is a sense of expansion in the writing of Harbour Street and a confidence that make it even more appealing than its predecessors."
Vera made her long-awaited debut in US bookshops in May 2013, when Minotaur Books published Silent Voices, delighting the many viewers who have enjoyed the story in Gaby Chiappe's sensitive adaptation of book for the hit TV series VERA; it is now also available in paperback.
Silent Voices finds Vera Stanhope in an unlikely setting - at a health club; but she has her reasons, and they are nothing to do with her work. So when Vera finds the body of a woman in the sauna room of her local gym, she wonders briefly if, for once in her life, she's uncovered a simple death from natural causes. But a closer inspection reveals ligature marks around the victim's throat - death is never that simple.
Ann's next novel will be another investigation for Vera Stanhope. It takes her to Valley Farm, a quiet community in Northumberland, where life seems perfect. Then a shocking discovery shatters the silence. The owners of a big country house have employed a house-sitter, a young ecologist named Patrick, to look after the place while they're away. But Patrick is found dead by the side of the lane into the valley - a beautiful, lonely place to die...
All about Vera, the TV series and the books.
"I do love Vera!"
Shetland: new beginnings
After the shocking ending of Blue Lightning, Inspector Jimmy Perez has been of out the loop, on indefinite leave. Will he be able to resume his post, and continue his investigations? When the body of journalist Jerry Markham is found in a traditional Shetland boat, outside the house of the Fiscal down at the Marina, young Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted in from the Hebrides to head the investigation.
But Jimmy Perez's interest in this new case is stirred and he decides to help the inquiry. For Willow, his local knowledge is invaluable, as the close-knit community holds many secrets. Markham - originally a Shetlander but who had made a name for himself in London - had left the islands years before to pursue his burgeoning writing career. In his wake, he left a scandal involving a young girl, Evie Watt, who is now engaged to a crofter. He had few friends there, so why was he back in Shetland?
Dead Water is now available in the US, published by St Martins Minotaur on February 17th 2014: read more about Dead Water here.
Meanwhile UK readers can find out what happened next in Thin Air, the sixth in the 'Shetland' series. In it, a group of old university friends leave the bright lights of London and travel to Unst, Shetland's most northerly island, to celebrate the marriage of one of their friends to a Shetlander. It's mid-summer, a time of light nights and unexpected mists. But late on the night of the wedding party, one of them, Eleanor, disappears - apparently into thin air. The following day, Eleanor's friend Polly receives an email. It appears to be a suicide note, saying she'll never be found alive. And then Eleanor's body is discovered, lying in a small loch close to the cliff edge...
Jimmy Perez once more joins forces with Willow Reeves to investigate a death which reveals the tensions between tradition and modernity that lie deep at the heart of a community, and shows how events from the past can have devastating effects on the present.
Read more about Thin Air.
For fans of the TV series - a new series of SHETLAND is on its way!
And if, like Ann, you can never have too many islands, then look out for Offshore, a new collection of short stories from some of the many islands around the coast of Britain. There are mysteries to be solved by DI Jimmy Perez on Shetland, by DI Willow Reeves on Uist in the Outer Hebrides, and by a young Vera Stsnhope on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne - and a spooky tale of first love set on the tidal island of Hilbre near Liverpool. Offshore is published in an exclusive Kindle-only edition on December 4th 2014.
Read more about Offshore and Ann Cleeves's other short stories.
Signed books now available
A lot of people have asked us if it is possible to buy signed copies of Ann's books, so we have teamed up with the people who offer this service for Val McDermid. If you want your copy of Harbour Street signed but can't get to any of Ann's events - or if you are looking for a particular, earlier book (we have mainly recent hardback UK titles on offer but other titles and languages may be available) - use the enquiry form to find out more.
Autumn 2013 brought a generous crop of new editions for fans of Ann Cleeves's detective novels - have you read them all?
Pan MacMillan's Bello imprint hunts down lost classics, and uses modern digital technology to make them available to readers as eBooks or print-on-demand paperbacks: over the summer they have quietly been releasing two previous series of detective novels by Ann Cleeves. The 'Inspector Ramsay' books feature a police officer who is like Ann's (and TV's) Vera Stanhope in being based in England's northernmost county, Northumberland - though unlike her in many other ways. Looking even further back, to the work of a very young writer, you can also now read the George & Molly books, the adventures of amateur sleuth George Palmer-Jones, an elderly birdwatcher - and his wife, Molly. (Or you might want to read what Ann would like to say to that younger self).
Two standalone novels are back in the bookshops in new paperback editions: The Sleeping and the Dead is a vivid psychological suspense novel the discovery of a body in the lake forces prison officer Hannah Morton to confront her past self; in Burial of Ghosts a holiday romance changes Lizzie's life forever.
In true Agatha Christie style, Cleeves once again pulls the wool over our eyes with cunning and conviction
A most satisfying mystery set in an isolated and intriguing location