More about The Moth Catcher
More about Harbour Street
More about Silent Voices
More about The Glass Room
More about The Crow Trap
More about Telling Tales
More about Hidden Depths
VERA voted Best Detective
DCI Vera Stanhope, the main character in the novels by Ann Cleeves and now also the star of the major ITV series, 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 - accompanied by Brenda Blethyn, who plays Vera in the television drama, 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."
The long and the short of Vera
There's a double helping of Vera coming in September. First, an appetiser: 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 has 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.
Ann has previously used short stories as an opportunity to explore Vera's past: The Habit of Silence, one of Ann's contributions to Best Eaten Cold, the second anthology of stories from Ann and her colleagues in the Murder Squad, reveals something more about Vera Stanhope, the woman she is now and the past that made her. Another short story, Hector's Other Woman, was first published in Guilty Consciences, the new anthology from the prestigious Crime Writers' Association, and is now reissued in Ann's short story collection, Offshore.
Read more about these and all Ann Cleeves's short stories.
Then, on September 10th, Pan MacMillan publish The Moth Catcher, another full-length investigation for Vera. 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...
Meanwhile, the newest Vera Stanhope book is Harbour Street, now available in the UK paperback. Harbour Street formed the basis of the opening episode of VERA series four, and concerns the mysterious death of pensioner Margaret Krukowksi on a busy Newcastle Metro train at the height of rush hour. It leads Vera to a quiet street in a run down seaside town, where she discovers 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.
The US edition of Harbour Street will be published by Minotaur Books on December 1, 2015 - allowing US readers to enjoy the story in the season in which it is set!
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."
Keeping up with Vera - the tv series
Series 5 of Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn as DCI Vera Stanhope, is now available on DVD, so you can watch Vera (which won best drama in the regional Royal Television Society Awards in March 2014) as often as you like, in your own good time. All four of the previous series are already available: order any of them from Amazon, using the links below, or look out for them in the shops!
- Order series 1 from Amazon UK (region 2 format) or from Amazon.com (Region 1).
- Order series 2 from Amazon UK (region 2 format); or from Amazon.com (Region 1).
- Order Series 3 from Amazon.UK (region 2 format) or from Amazon.com (Region 1).
- Order Series 4 from Amazon.UK (region 2 format) or from Amazon.com (Region 1).
- Order Series 5 from Amazon UK (region 2 format only at present).
VERA is filmed at locations from across Northumberland and Tyneside: if the scenery gives you an urge to visit Northumberland, here's a guide to some key locations - and you can read what Ann has to say about the county here.
Series 5 introduced Kenny Doughty as DS Aiden Healy: interviewed during the filming, Brenda Blethyn explained: "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." Brenda Blethyn talked to The Journal about playing Vera - and about getting to grips with 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!
"I do love Vera!"
"If you like the TV series, you're in for a treat - because the atmospheric but realistic books are even better."
Despite Vera's continuing - and growing - success, Ann Cleeves told Shots Magazine that The Crow Trap (the first Vera Stanhope novel) was originally intended as a standalone novel. But "I liked Vera Stanhope so much that I brought her back, first in Telling Tales and now in Hidden Depths. She developed because I was so cross with even feminist writers writing female central characters who were young, fit and beautiful. Vera isn't any of those things. She's overweight and middle-aged." - "more Nero Wolfe than V I Warshawski", as Jake Kerridge put it in The Telegraph!
Read an interview with Ann Cleeves in the Edinburgh Evening News about Vera Stanhope.
"... one of the most appealing fictional detectives to emerge since Andy Dalziel got into his stride..."
Martin Edwards, Spinetingler Magazine
"... although she is lonely, obsessed with her job and over fond of a beer, Vera is one of the few fictional detectives who seems not only like a real person, but one capable of conducting a murder enquiry. Ann Cleeves brings the same skill to all her characterisations in this highly impressive story."
Jake Kerridge, Daily Telegraph