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Hidden Depths

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VERA returns!

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.

The Moth Catcher

Episode three, to be broadcast on Sunday 14th February, is an adaptation of Ann's latest Vera Stanhope novel, The Moth Catcher, so you can get a head start by reading the book - which is now available in paperback!

The Moth Catcher was published by Pan MacMillan on September 10th 2015. It 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 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

In a new interview in The Independent, Ann talks about where she found the initial ideas for The Moth Catcher - and what crime novels she enjoys - and doesn't enjoy! - reading.

Read more about this seventh Vera Stanhope book here.

Harbour Street in the US

starThe sixth Vera Stanhope book, Harbour Street, which formed the basis of the opening episode of VERA series four, is now available in the US, published by Minotaur Books on December 1, 2015 - allowing US readers to enjoy the story in the season in which it is set! It received a starred review in the Library Journal's list of seasonal titles, with the verdict: "Cleeves offers up evocative settings and flawed characters with depth, making her mysteries wonderfully addictive. Her latest is no exception."

starAnother starred review, this time in Publishers' Weekly agreed: "Cleeves expertly handles the interplay among Vera - outsized both in stature and personality - her staff, and the villagers... You don't have to be a fan of the TV enjoy this top-notch police procedural."

Harbour Street 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 Guardian has published Ann's 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!

More about Harbour Street.

The Starlings and Other Stories

Vera in Short

There's more: 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.

The Starlings and Other Stories was published by Graffeg on 7th September 2015. You can see a preview (and place an order) on the publisher's website or order a copy from Amazon.

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.

VERA voted Best Detective

Ann Cleeves, Lee Child and Brenda Blethyn

Ann Cleeves and Brenda Blethyn receive Vera's Dead Good Award from Lee Child

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."

Catching up with Vera - the tv series

VERA Series 5 - the DVD

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!

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!"

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!