Thin Air, the latest Shetland mystery from bestselling crime witer Ann Cleeves, has been shortlisted for the fourth annual Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year (formerly the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year.) The shortlist of six was chosen by an independent panel of readers from a longlist of 55 books, and the winner will be announced at a gala dinner on Saturday 12 September as part of the Bloody Scotland programme, bringing crime readers and authors together to celebrate the prize at the Stirling-based festival. Ann says: "I'm absolutely delighted that Thin Air has been shortlisted for the Scottish Crime Novel of the year. Thanks to the judges for considering it and to Bloody Scotland for organising the competition."
Thin Air is now available in both the US and the UK. A group of old university friends leave the bright lights of London and travel to Unst, Shetland's most northerly island, to celebrate the marriage of one of their friends to a Shetlander. It's mid-summer, a time of light nights and unexpected mists. But late on the night of the wedding party, one of them, Eleanor, disappears - apparently into thin air. The following day, Eleanor's friend Polly receives an email. It appears to be a suicide note, saying she'll never be found alive. And then Eleanor's body is discovered, lying in a small loch close to the cliff edge...
In this sixth in the 'Shetland' series, detective Jimmy Perez: once more joins forces with Willow Reeves to investigate a death which reveals the tensions between tradition and modernity that lie deep at the heart of a community, and shows how events from the past can have devastating effects on the present.
Read more about Thin Air.
For a once in a lifetime opportunity to see Ann Cleeves's Shetland for yourself, see the Events page.
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."
There's a double helping of Vera Stanhope, Ann Cleeves' brilliant but unconventional detective, 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.
Read more about The Starlings and other short stories by Ann Cleeves.
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, on September 10th. Read more about this seventh Vera Stanhope book here.
And, of course, there's a sixth series of ITV's VERA coming in 2016.
Catching up with Vera
While we are waiting for the autumn harvest of new Vera tales, are you up to date with the story so far? The most recent Vera Stanhope book is Harbour Street, now also available in paperback. It concerns the mysterious death of pensioner Margaret Krukowksi on a busy Newcastle Metro train at the height of rush hour, which leads Vera to a quiet street in a run down seaside town, and 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.
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."
Vera made her long-awaited debut in US bookshops in May 2013, when Minotaur Books published Silent Voices, delighting the many viewers who have enjoyed the story in Gaby Chiappe's sensitive adaptation of book for the hit TV series VERA; it is now also available in paperback.
Silent Voices finds Vera Stanhope in an unlikely setting - at a health club; but she has her reasons, and they are nothing to do with her work. So when Vera finds the body of a woman in the sauna room of her local gym, she wonders briefly if, for once in her life, she's uncovered a simple death from natural causes. But a closer inspection reveals ligature marks around the victim's throat - death is never that simple.
Series 5 of Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn as Ann Cleeves' brilliant but unconventional detective, 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, or look out for them in the shops!
All about Vera, the TV series and the books.
"I do love Vera!"
And if, like Ann, you can never have too many islands, then look out for Offshore, a new collection of short stories from some of the many islands around the coast of Britain. There are mysteries to be solved by DI Jimmy Perez on Shetland, by DI Willow Reeves on Uist in the Outer Hebrides, and by a young Vera Stsnhope on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne - and a spooky tale of first love set on the tidal island of Hilbre near Liverpool. Offshore is published in an exclusive Kindle-only edition on December 4th 2014.
Read more about Offshore and Ann Cleeves's other short stories.
Signed books now available
A lot of people have asked us if it is possible to buy signed copies of Ann's books, so we have teamed up with the people who offer this service for Val McDermid. If you want your copy of Harbour Street signed but can't get to any of Ann's events - or if you are looking for a particular, earlier book (we have mainly recent hardback UK titles on offer but other titles and languages may be available) - use the enquiry form to find out more.
Autumn 2013 brought a generous crop of new editions for fans of Ann Cleeves's detective novels - have you read them all?
Pan MacMillan's Bello imprint hunts down lost classics, and uses modern digital technology to make them available to readers as eBooks or print-on-demand paperbacks: over the summer they have quietly been releasing two previous series of detective novels by Ann Cleeves. The 'Inspector Ramsay' books feature a police officer who is like Ann's (and TV's) Vera Stanhope in being based in England's northernmost county, Northumberland - though unlike her in many other ways. Looking even further back, to the work of a very young writer, you can also now read the George & Molly books, the adventures of amateur sleuth George Palmer-Jones, an elderly birdwatcher - and his wife, Molly. (Or you might want to read what Ann would like to say to that younger self).
Two standalone novels are back in the bookshops in new paperback editions: The Sleeping and the Dead is a vivid psychological suspense novel the discovery of a body in the lake forces prison officer Hannah Morton to confront her past self; in Burial of Ghosts a holiday romance changes Lizzie's life forever.
In true Agatha Christie style, Cleeves once again pulls the wool over our eyes with cunning and conviction
A most satisfying mystery set in an isolated and intriguing location