Ann's TV Double
It takes engaging characters, a distinctive setting - and a bit of good luck! - for a novelist to see a series of her books make the transition from page to screen. Award-winning crime writer, Ann Cleeves (photographed, right, by Micha Theiner) has all of these in spades: which is why she starts 2016 with not one but two series showing on UK television.
Shetland, the television drama based on Ann Cleeves' award-winning Shetland novels, returned to BBC TV on Friday 15th January. This thrilling new drama is a single full-length story told over six episodes; it is an original story, not based on any of the novels. Douglas Henshall returns as DI Jimmy Perez, aided by Tosh (Alison O'Donnell) and Sandy (Shetlander Steven Robertson). The first four episodes are still available to watch again on the iPlayer; Better hurry though, because time is running out! Episode five will be broadcast on Friday 19th February at 9.00 pm.
Meanwhile Ann's other creation, her brilliant but unconventional detective DCI Vera Stanhope, brought to life by Brenda Blethyn, has returned to Sunday evening television in ITV's VERA.
ITV's VERA returned to Sunday evening television on January 31st. The wait is over as UK audiences can see this sixth series of cases for the popular detective based on the novels by Ann Cleeves and brilliantly played by Brenda Blethyn. The series consists of four standalone episodes. You can still watch episode 1 and espisode 2 on catch-up.
Episode three, to be broadcast on Sunday 14th February, is an adaptation of Ann's latest Vera Stanhope novel, so you can get a head start by reading the book - which is now available in paperback! The Moth Catcher takes Vera 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...
"... the best of a superb series... "
"The Moth Catcher is a splendid, solidly plotted modern take on a golden-age "closed circle" mystery, and Vera, as always, is a delight."
Laura Wilson, The Guardian
The Moth Catcher was published by Pan MacMillan, on September 10th, and is now also available in paperback. Read more about this seventh Vera Stanhope book here.
And the sixth Vera Stanhope book is now also available in the US. It has already gathered some starry reviews: Publishers' Weekly called it a "top-notch police procedural." the Library Journal said it was "wonderfully addictive". Read more about Harbour Street here.
Ann Cleeves was delighted to be appointed as a National Libraries Day ambassador for 2016. She found time in her busy schedule because, she said: "Libraries matter. If we believe in equality of opportunity we must fight not just for the buildings but for the range of books inside and the skilled staff who can promote reading in all its forms. Not only do libraries encourage us to be more tolerant and better informed, they contribute enormously to the wealth of the nation."
National Libraries Day was Saturday 6th February, which just happened to be the Saturday after publication of a new mystery by Ann Cleeves, featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez from her bestselling Shetland series. Too Good To Be True is a gripping Quick Read which takes Jimmy Perez away from his home territory, all the way south to the Borders - and it was published by Pan on 4th February 2016, just in time for National Libraries Day!
When young teacher Anna Blackwell is found dead in her home, the police think her death was suicide or a tragic accident. After all, Stonebridge is a quiet country village in the Scottish Borders, where murders just don't happen.
But Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez soon arrives from far-away Shetland when his ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to look into the case. The local gossips are saying that her new husband, Tom, was having an affair with Anna. Could Tom have been involved with her death? Sarah refuses to believe it - but needs proof.
Anna had been a teacher. She must have loved kids. Would she kill herself knowing there was nobody to look after her daughter? She had seemed happier than ever before she died. And to Perez, this suggests not suicide, but murder ...
Too Good To Be True has been selected as one of 15 books to be given away, free, on World Book Night, April 23rd 2016. Organisers explained that the diverse line-up, spanning genres of crime, poetry, non-fiction, YA, historical fiction, and fiction in translation, was devised to celebrate "the enrichment that reading and books can bring to people's lives" encouraging those who don't already read for pleasure - an estimated 36% of adults - to get involved. Ann said "It's nice to be a part of this event, specially with the Quick Read Jimmy Perez!"
Shetland with a difference!
Ann says "If you'd like to know more about the islands where the Shetland TV series is filmed and the books are set, check out my non-fiction book. It's full of wonderful photos and explains why I love the place so much." It's a gloriously illustrated companion to the novels, taking readers through a year on Shetland, learning about its past, meeting its people, celebrating its festivals and seeing how the flora and fauna of the islands changes with the seasons. Whether it is the drama of the Viking fire festival of Up Helly Aa in winter, or the piercing blue and hot pink of spring flowers on the clifftops, the long, white nights of midsummer or the fierce gales and high tides of autumn, Shetland is vividly captured in all its bleak and special beauty.
You can see an extract from the book on the publishers' website.
Into Thin Air
In Shetland, Ann explains how she found the stating point for Thin Air: an in this latest Shetland mystery you can see what she made of it! Thin Air is now available in both the US and the UK. 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...
In this sixth in the 'Shetland' series, detective 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.
Thin Air was shortlisted for the fourth annual Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year (formerly the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year.) Ann said: "I'm absolutely delighted that Thin Air has been shortlisted for the Scottish Crime Novel of the year. Thanks to the judges for considering it and to Bloody Scotland for organising the competition."
Read more about Thin Air.
Vera: the Best Detective
In July, Vera (as played by Brenda Blethyn) won the Lee Child Award for Best Loner or Detective in the first Dead Good Reader Awards, announced at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate. As Programming Chair of the 2015 Festival, Ann was present - and accompanied by Brenda Blethyn - to accept the award from Lee Child.
Ann said: "I am thrilled that Vera has won. I developed Vera because at the time there were few strong, believable female protagonists in crime fiction. I wanted someone true, real and relatable, so I created Vera Stanhope.
"She grew out of the strong spinsters I knew as a child: competent, formidable and without a trace of glamour. She's middle-aged, over-weight and if I was in trouble I'd want her on my side."
If you just can't get enough of Vera - and who can? - there's an extra titbit available this autumn. Ann's contribution to The Starlings and Other Stories (which she has also edited), is the title story, The Starlings, featuring DI Vera Stanhope. For this collection of twelve short stories, Ann invited each of her fellow members of Murder Squad writers' group to join her, with an accomplice, in writing a short story inspired by the dramatic photography of Pembrokeshire-based author David Wilson.
Read more about The Starlings and other short stories by Ann Cleeves.
All about Vera, the TV series and the books.
In the Press
Ann talked to The Independent about where she found the initial ideas for The Moth Catcher - and what crime novels she enjoys - and doesn't enjoy! - reading. Meanwhile, in The Guardian she offers a short guide to Vera's Northumberland: read what she has to say about Amble, and compare her descriptions of Mardle, the setting for Harbour Street!
"I do love Vera!"
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 Thin Air 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