The VERA books in order:
More about The Crow Trap
More about Telling Tales
More about Hidden Depths
More about Silent Voices
More about The Glass Room
More about Harbour Street
More about The Moth Catcher
More about The Seagull
Best of British Crime Drama
A recent Radio Times poll asked viewers to name the best British crime drama of all time: and Ann Cleeves' creations were ranked in the top 10 not once but twice!
The poll, which received over 10,000 votes, put VERA at sixth place (and Shetland at ninth). Ann Cleeves' brilliant but unorthodox detective DCI Vera Stanhope, played on TV by the wonderful Brenda Blethyn, is no atranger to awards. In April Ann was at Malice Domestic, to see Brenda collect her Poirot Award. Malice Domestic is an annual convention celebrating the traditional mystery, as exemplified by the books of Agatha Christie; it makes annual Agatha Awards to crime writers in that tradition, but the Poirot Award is given only when the convention wishes to honour someone other than a crime writer for their contribution. Ann agrees that her creation is enriched by Brenda Blethyn's performance as Vera: "She absolutely captures the spirit of the character," Ann 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 Radio Times interview, Ann admitted that sometimes Brenda tells her things about Vera that she hadn't known herself!
Now is the time to catch up with that performance, in the latest - the - eighth series of VERA. In the UK, Series 8 is now available on DVD. This is (initially, at least) only in Region 2 format: but US viewers can watch the whole series on BritBox or via Amazon.com. And see below for how to catch up with the previous seven series of VERA.
And there's more good news: filming is now in progress for series nine!. Once again, the series will consist of four feature length episodes; three of these will be original stories, and the fourth - the last in the series - will be based on Ann's latest Vera Stanhope novel, The Seagull.
VERA, the original
The Seagull is the eighth case for Vera, and is the first of Ann's books to be published simultaneously in the UK (by Pan MacMillan) and in the US (by Minotaur Books). It is now also available in paperback. It was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2018.
A visit to her local prison brings Vera Stanhope with an old enemy: former detective superintendent, and now inmate, John Brace. Brace was a close friend of Hector, her father; then he was convicted of corruption and involvement in the death of a gamekeeper - and Vera played a part in his downfall.
Brace promises Vera information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious wheeler-dealer, if she will look out for his daughter and grandchildren. He tells her that Marshall is dead, his body is buried close to St Mary's Island in Whitley Bay. However, when a search team investigates, officers find not one skeleton, but two.
Catch up with VERA - in the US
It's easier than ever for US readers to catch up with the full story of Vera: in addition to the simultaneous publication of Vera's latest case, Minotaur Books are, for the first time, going back to the beginning of the story, and publishing US editions of all Ann Cleeves' 'Vera' novels at the rate of two books a year. Start with Vera's first appearance, in The Crow Trap, or pick up the newest title in the US, The Glass Room.
DI Vera Stanhope is not one to make friends easily, but her hippy neighbours keep her well-supplied in homebrew and conversation, so she has more tolerance for them than most. When one of them goes missing she feels duty-bound to find out what happened. But her path leads her to more than a missing friend ...
It's an easy job to track the young woman down to the Writers' House, a country retreat where aspiring authors gather to workshop and work through their novels. It gets complicated when a body is discovered and Vera's neighbour is found with a knife in her hand. Calling in the team, Vera knows that she should hand the case over to someone else. She's too close to the main suspect. But the investigation is too tempting and she's never been one to follow the rules. Working with Sergeant Joe Ashworth, she starts the hunt for a murderer who is artistic as well as deadly.
Star crime writer Val McDermid said: "In The Glass Room Cleeves has pulled off the rare trick of writing about writers and writing without it being horribly self-referential and indulgent. And I do love Vera!"
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!
Catch up with VERA - on TV
Eight series of ITV's VERA, starring multi-award-winning Brenda Blethyn, are now available on DVD in the UK (and seven in the US!). The earlier series of the TV drama based on Ann's characters and settings have been widely broadcast; VERA was nominated for an Edgar Award, for Dark Road, the first episode of series 6 (an original screenplay by Martha Hillier). Order your choice from Amazon, using the links below, or look out for them in the shops!
- Order series 1 on DVD 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) or from from Amazon.com (Region 1).
- Order Series 6 from Amazon UK - or from Amazon.com (Region 1).
- Order series 7 from Amazon.UK (Region 2 only) or from Amazon.com in US format.
VERA is filmed at locations from across Northumberland and Tyneside: if the scenery gives you an urge to visit Northumberland, you can read what Ann has to say about the county here. The Guardian also published Ann's short guide to Vera's Northumberland.
Vera in Short
Just can't get enough of Vera? If you've read all the novels, and watched all the TV dramas, have you read the short stories?
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 first 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 UK or from Amazon.com.
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.
"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."
"... 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