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Hidden Depths

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Keeping up with Vera - the tv series

Series 5 of Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn as Ann Cleeves' brilliant but unconventional detective, DCI Vera Stanhope, has now ended, and if you want to catch up with it on the iPlayer, you'd better hurry, because time is running out: Episode 1, Changing Tides, and Episode 2: Old Wounds, have already expired. In Episode 3: Muddy Waters Vera and Aiden head into the hills, to an isolated farm where a body has been found in the slurry pit. Finally, in Episode 4: Shadows in the Sky, a man falls from the top of a multi-storey car park as his daughter, resplendent in her prom dress, waits nearby. He could have jumped, but that seems unlikely, particularly after Vera and her sidekick, DS Aiden Healy, limping from a football injury, dig into his background.

But it's not too late to see the whole series: you can buy it on DVD, and 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 on DVD, and Series 5 follows on May 11th. Order any of these from Amazon, or look out for them in the shops!

VERA Series 5 - the DVD

Or perhaps you would prefer to own the DVDs, and 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 available on DVD, and Series 5 follows on May 11th. Order any of these from Amazon, using the links below, or look out for them in the shops!

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!

Keeping up with Vera - the books

The Moth Catcher

But the real Vera Stanhope begins with the books. Ann Cleeves has already published six murder mysteries featuring this irresistible detective, all in print: click the covers (right) to learn more.

And Ann's next novel will be another 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...

The Moth Catcher will be published by Pan MacMillan, in September. Read more about this seventh Vera Stanhope book here.

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!

A review of Harbour Street was the most visited by readers of the Crime Fiction Lover website, making it their Favourite Crime Novel of 2014.

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."

More about Harbour Street.

"I do love Vera!"

Val McDermid

"If you like the TV series, you're in for a treat - because the atmospheric but realistic books are even better."

Leicester Mercury

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

Vera's Facebook pageYou can also keep up with the show through its page on Facebook!

Vera in brief

Best Eaten Cold, the new Murder Squad anthology

Ann Cleeves has revealed something of Vera's past in two short stories. 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 writers' group, 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.

Best Eaten Cold is now available from the publisher, The History Press and there is a nifty preview of the book on their website too.

Vera's many admirers find more treats on Ann's author page on the Pan Macmillan site: two short stories to download - featuring competition winners Maxine and Kevin!

Read more about these and all Ann Cleeves's short stories.