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Shetland's back on TV!

Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez - series 4 publicity photo

The first episode of Shetland series 4 was shown on BBC1 on Tuesday 13th February. This is the first installment of a single gripping tale, told in six parts, so if you missed it, watch it on the iPlayer to follow the story from the beginning. Shetland is based on the characters and setting of Ann Cleeves's award-winning novels, but the story is an original one, in which Jimmy Perez must deal with murders from the past and present - which have unsettling similarities.

Douglas Henshall returns as DI Jimmy Perez, with Alison O'Donnell and Shetlander Steven Robertson (recently seen in VERA!) as his fellow-officers, plus Mark Bonnar and Julie Graham alongside new faces, filming on location in Shetland, Glasgow and Norway. Steven Robertson talked to the Herald about the show, and about growing up in Shetland.

View trailers for Series 4.

Read more about Shetland: the books, the TV series, and the islands!

Not too late for VERA

The eighth series of VERA, the TV casebook of Ann Cleeves' unorthodox but brilliant detective DCI Vera Stanhope, has now completed its four-episode run. If you missed it, it is not too late: all four episodes are available as a box set on catch-up! The most recent addition to the set is Darkwater, the fourth and last episode of the series, first broadcast on Sunday 28th January; watch Darkwater on catch-up now. Previous eposodes are Episode 3, Home, which features Steven Robertson, previously seen in the TV series Shetland: "My worlds colliding," says Ann. Watch Home on catch-up; watch Episode 2, Black Ice; and Episode 1, Blood & Bone. Series 8 will be available on DVD on February 26th (initially only in Region 2 format only) - and the good news is that Brenda Blethyn has confirmed there will be a ninth series!

Series 8, the DVD

Series 8 stars, as ever, the wonderful Brenda Blethyn. Ann's creation is enriched by Brenda Blethyn's contribution: "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!

The drama series is produced by ITV Studios and also stars Jon Morrison, Ibinabo Jack, Kingsley Ben-Adir and Riley Jones; US viewers, try checking the listings for the same date on BritBox (more information here).

VERA, the books

The Seagull - US edition

The latest book by award winning crime writer Ann Cleeves also features her unorthodox but brilliant detective DCI Vera Stanhope. 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 in the UK - and US readers don't miss out, because you have a new edition of Hidden Depths to catch up with!

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.

Louise Penny, author of the award-winning Armand Gamache series of murder mysteries, says "I loved The Seagull - quite simply it reminds me why Ann Cleeves is one of my favorite mystery writers! I relish learning more about Vera with each book, and The Seagull provides fresh insight into one of our most complex and lovable sleuths."

Read more about The Seagull

All about Vera, the TV series and the books.

Ann Cleeves: "the worthiest of winners"

Ann Cleeves presented with the Diamond Dagger by Martin Edwards

Ann Cleeves presented with the Diamond Dagger by CWA Chairman Martin Edwards
photo courtesy of the Crime Writers' Association; used with permission

On 26 October 2017, Ann Cleeves was presented with the Diamond Dagger of the Crime Writers' Association, the highest honour in British crime writing, at the CWA's Dagger Awards ceremony in London.

Presenting Ann with her award, Martin Edwards, Chair of the CWA, said: "It's a lifetime achievement award, and above all it recognises excellence in writing. But it also recognises a significant contribution to the crime writing world. And nobody can deny that Ann Cleeves' contribution has been magnificent."

He went on to say that "You all know about the wonderful books, and you all know about the fantastically successful TV series. So, given that the recurring theme of this evening is friendship, I just want to say a few words about Ann the person," and praised Ann for her kindness and generosity to others, and as a passionate advocate of the library service.

In 2006 Ann was the first winner of the Duncan Lawrie Gold Dagger Award for best crime novel of the year, for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland series. In addition, she has been short listed for CWA Dagger Awards, once for the short story dagger, and twice for the Dagger in the Library award which is awarded not for an individual book but for an author's entire body of work.

Ann says: "It's a huge honour to be recognized by my peers, the crime-writers whose books, friendship and support I've enjoyed for more than thirty years. I am privileged to have had such a happy career and I will always be grateful for the support of booksellers and forever indebted to the passion and expertise of librarians, without whom I wouldn't still be writing today."

Watch a video of the presentation.

Cold Earth

Cold Earth - the US edition

Cold Earth, the seventh in Ann's award winning series of Shetland mysteries, is now available in the US, and is out in the UK in paperback. It marks not only the continuation of a popular and much-praised series, but also Ann's thirtieth book in 30 years! The story opens as Jimmy Perez attends the burial of his old friend Magnus Tait: but torrential rain triggers a landslide that reveals a totally unexpected body that of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress. Her identity is a mystery Jimmy becomes obsessed with solving: perhaps it can help the dark-haired Fair Islander resolve some mysteries of his own.

Mark Lawson chose Cold Earth as one of his best crime books of the year, and called Ann "the best living evoker of landscape". It was also longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize (formerly the Scottish Crime Book of the Year).

"One of the most memorable entries in the series."

Barry Forshaw, FT

Read what Ann told The Sydney Morning Herald about Cold Earth.

More about Cold Earth.

All about Ann Cleeves' Shetland: the books, the TV series, the place...

In the Press

Ann talked to The Independent about where she found the initial ideas for The Moth Catcher - and what crime novels she enjoys - and doesn't enjoy! - reading. Meanwhile, in The Guardian she offers a 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!

"I do love Vera!"

Val McDermid

Other Books

The Starlings and Other Stories Bello reissues: the Inspector Ramsay books Burial of Ghosts The Sleeping and the Dead

Ann Cleeves says "Good short stories have a force and a clarity which it's almost impossible to achieve in a novel. That's why I enjoy reading them. I know that each word has been chosen with care.

"I don't send post cards when I travel; I write stories instead. The three pieces in the CWA anthologies bring back vivid memories of Tanzania, Finland and Alaska. Raven Black was originally conceived as another of those holiday snap stories."

In The Starlings and Other Stories, Ann has edited a collection of twelve short stories which are literally, if not snapshots, at least inspired by photographs. She has invited each of her fellow members of Murder Squad to bring in an accomplice, and write a short story inspired by the dramatic photography of Pembrokeshire-based author David Wilson. Ann's own contribution is the title story, The Starlings, featuring DI Vera Stanhope.

Read more about The Starlings and other short stories by Ann Cleeves.

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

Colin Dexter

A most satisfying mystery set in an isolated and intriguing location

Peter Robinson

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Last update: 14th February 2018.