I learned of British mystery writer Ann Cleeves quite by accident when the mystery series Vera first was aired on Oregon Public Broadcasting a couple years ago. I was captivated by the dumpy, grumpy, woman-of-a-certain-age head of the Northumberland Police Department’s major crime unit. Played in the series by Brenda Blethyn, DCI Vera Stanhope uses and abuses her sergeant, Joe (David Leon), and the rest of her staff. She lives in a remote home in rural Northumberland. She has health issues. And more often than is good for her, she seeks solace in the bottle.
As creator of Emma Golden, I can really relate. Vera has her aches and pains, and she is well past the point of suffering fools gladly. Yet she has her soft spots for the strangest people and situations, and she calls everyone “pet”.
While I took delight in the television series, it was only this month that I began reading Ann Cleeves’s mysteries–Raven Black and Silent Voices to date. They are superb. Her earlier works, featuring detective Jimmy Perez, are set in the Shetland Islands. The Vera series takes place in the wild lands surrounding Newcastle and Durham–an area I became familiar with about 15 years ago and fell in love with!
Mystery readers will love this author. She writes the traditional mysteries I love to read. For solid writing, scene setting, and plot she is excellent. But I feel that her character development is among the best. Stand back Elizabeth George, Sue Grafton, and the rest! Like Lynley and Havers, Kinsey Milhone, and my other favorites, Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez have quickly won spots in my heart. I can’t wait to read more Ann Cleeves mysteries.
If you missed the Vera series on television, check out your local library or Netflix for the DVDs.