I am so excited Vera is back on the television.After having loved and read all of Ann’s books and watched all of Vera’sepisodes, never has the North East looked so mesmerizing and creepy at the same time. Brenda Blethyn was on the Jonathan Ross show last night talking about how she came into acting rather late and when she got the part of Vera, this middle aged dumpy and bedraggled woman,and worried about why they had cast her. She plays the part so well and I see her every time I pick up a vera novel now (and I don’t just mean on the cover)
It was a real honour to film a piece for local television (ITV Tyne Tees) this week in order to launch the new booktrail site and to talk more about the locations featured in Ann Cleeves novels. Ooh how I wished we’d had time to go to Tyne Valley, Amble and all the rest – but even just on the Quayside, around the corner from the Church where Harbour Street opens and the Lit and Philwhere Vera praises as a haven for every booklover (true) On tonight’s episode, we see Vera and Joe talk to a waiter/manager on an open balcony overlooking the Tyne (Brave). In the winds the North East has had recently, nearly everyone is wearing Vera style macs ( or they should be)
Vera pet you bring so much enjoyment tothe television screens and having bumped into you in various places in and around Newcastle (there was a pop up Fairground on the Town Moor where Vera films a few scenes and Brenda spoke last night on Jonathan Ross’s show about how they’d filmed the entire sequence only for a woman to come out of the nearby toilets, spot her and shout ‘ Vera!!’
Now if I hadn’t been with my mother that day, this is just the kind of thing she would have done. Everyone loves Vera.
So – ITV tonight 8pm. Vera Day is announced. Enjoy!
The list this year for the Richard and Judy WHSMITH bookclub is really impressive and we review the second batch of four in brief to help you choose your next read from the list.
England – Sussex
The Bones of You
This is the ultimate – you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors kind of novel. The one where you’re thinking some people have the most perfect lives until you realise differently. The village life in England seems perfect, the fact that the missing girl has a nice family life, people go horse riding together etc
This is more of a character study than a booktrail book but it’s the family insight was what got me. What you think you see and what actually exists. How appearances can be deceptive. It’s a bit like Lovely Bones too as the dead girl Rosie talks to you the reader from time to time and describes events that Kate, a neighbour and friend is finding out.
A man praying on lone female drivers in LA – and acting as a Samaritan is the ultimate monster really when you thin about it. someone who seems to want to help and then does the exact opposite.
I think what made it even more of a thriller was the fact that the locations – LA and the Santa Monica mountains are the very palaces that would be scary to drive through on your own. I think everyone not just women is scared of something happening like this. The hunt for the person responsible is a real thriller andthe reveal of the victims and how and why this is being done… wellwhen you read about Carter Blake and the ways he sets about tracking down the Samaritan was a road trip that was very violent in place and sickening to a large extent but the thriller thread wove all the way through for me.
Not so much a booktrail but a novel all about family, ghosts of the past and people. A house opens up it doors for a viewing and the woman who lives there guides him round with each room revealing a secret or two as well as many memories. The house transports her back to her early life and the fifty so years she’s lived in the house. As well as the boxes of possessions, she’s packing away the memories and nostalgia as well and this is harder to let go off. Some are nice memories to recall whilst others not so much.
Edwina is not the only one with a claim to this house though – others in the family tell their story and the house suddenly takes on more colour, fabric of their lives and the tears and holes within
The house is a major character itself and written with the wit, charm of Jenny Eclair, this is a real winner for me. I could hear her talk as I read the book and am sure this really gave it the edge!
Europe – in a forest..
Our Endless Numbered Days
It was the fairytale aspect of the story which got me in the first place. The idea of the Hansel and Gretel cottage in the middle of the forest where a girl is taken by her father to live. The forest is huge and dark and they have to find food by foraging like animals, killing and hunting to survive. The Girl, Peggy is only 8 and has been told by her father who is a survivalist, that the end of the world is nigh. There are still people who live like this in America – who prepare for the end and the hut is going to be their salvation. Life is good fora while but the reasons for his rift with his wife and the hardship of having to life so basic, the mindset of the father himself becomes even more harsh and difficult. The story is told by Peggy as she grows up and I was shocked at the end. This was a dark fairytale with lots of hidden meaning and a reason not to go into the woods anytime soon.
Literary journey around the world part 2 – more countries to cover and more adventures to be had:
If you’ve ever wanted to feel as you’re standing beside an iconic figure in history as he makes that history, then how about meeting Harold Carter and being one of the first into the tomb ofTutankhamen ?
I really enjoyed this book for the mix of fact and fiction. Much of it was based on real people and certainly real places and the iconic moment of discovering the tomb, revealed as if being there yourself, was just a very memorable reading experience. I love stepping back in time and seeing an event or a person as it might have happened and this was particularly real I felt. A book to read and immerse yourself in. I had no particular interest inEgyptian history as such before reading this book but this was an eye opener!
The South Atlantic
How to Be Brave
Two stories woven together in a very creative and clever way. A mother showing concern and love for her daughter who is sick, tells her the story of the girl’s grandfather who was adrift at sea. By telling her the story, they forget momentarily their own anguish but bring themselves closer to the grandfather and his bravery. The overall theme is survival and hope in the most extreme circumstances – lost in an illness or the ocean, the feeling is the same but bravery and the power of hope can help them all.
The sense of adventure with this book was breathtaking. Holidaying up a mountain retreat with your best friends? It might be in the wilds of nowhere but you’re with people you know and trust right? Isolation can b both relaxing and frightening at the same time and this for me ramped up the tension. A retreat sounded great, even if I’ve never done yoga myself, yet the twists and turns Ifelt with this book made me think as if I have now.
This was a novel I was not expecting. Not from the blurb or the general information out there on the web. I’d heard of ‘the twist’ but was still not expecting the one that came.
Written by a former detective, this gave it added gravitas but was especially clever was the way we followed Jenna and judged what she did and what she was doing without thinking of the bigger picture. Jenna is trying to escape but from what exactly? She settles in Wales and lives an isolated life but sometimes silence can be deafening. This book was one of Richard and Judy’s summer picks for 2015 and was reviewed on Loose Women so everyone was talking about it and still is!
Remember those books that you read as a child where you could pick the end or the turn of events? Where you felt you had a part to play in the fate of the characters? This is thegrown up version of that idea – the Sliding Doorsof the book world – where you go literally on a journey with the characters and see how things could have turned out had they happened differently. I loved the style of this, the idea and the way it was written. It was one of the most involving novels I’ve read in a long while and stands out for being very different and a real treat. It’s on the Richard and Judy picks for 2016 and very well deserved!
2000s: How lovely is it to spend Christmas with Carole Matthews. She has chocolate!
The third book in the chocolate lovers series sees a Christmas themed book more Christmassy than Christmas itself. The Chocolate Lovers Club is bigger and better than ever. Lucy has been managing the shop Chocolate Heaven for nine months now and it’s the place to meet for her and friends Nadia, Chantal and Autumn.
There are chocolate recipes to discover, some more traditional than others. And for the friends, a boyfriend, a former fiance and the chance of finding new love all wrapped up with a huge Christmas bow!
Place and Setting
What can we say – this isa walk underneath a chocolate fountain. Even in the end notes, Carole writes of her ahem ‘ research’ for this novel such as a tour with the Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. She’s even had a chocolate weekend or two at the Three Ways House hotel in Mickleton. They have chocolate weekends!!! The friends she’s met -rather like those in the book have bonded over a love of chocolate and like love she says, it seems to be a universal language.
In London, the chocolate shop is in the city where the Christmas spirt is alive and well. The crowds are out in Oxford street and Hamleys is buzzing with kids and more kids. However the four friends spend their time, chatting, and just getting through their family and romantic entanglements.
“Chocolate Heaven is still a place of refuge to all of us in times of need, A little corner of this earth that wraps up in in cosiness, comforts us and feeds us chocolate. Hurrah! Long may it thrive.”
The outing to Keswick is where both Carole’s and the girls spiritual home is.Cumbria cottage is in the village, it still hashigh street like the villages of old. A traditional time gone by. “It was pretty stone buildings ”Nadia doesn’t think she has seen anywhere quite so lovely. “ The Lakes isa place to rest and relax when you need to escape the buzz of London if only for a while.
And Bruges – the home of chocolate on the continent. There’s a Christmas market and a myriad of chocolate shops like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
“Bruges looks flipping fabulous in its festive garb.”
This is a warm feeling of a novel. A mug of Hot chocolate topped with marshmallows and sugar sprinkles. Never is it sickly sweet however yet it gives you the same feeling – tasty, warm, and very inviting. And afterwards you sit back with a huge smile on your face and this book is so realistic on the chocolate front that I swear I had a chocolate tash as well.
It goes without saying that you have to eat chocolate whilst eating this book or at least have some to hand as you’ll be racing out that door to get some when you start reading. I’d read the other books and had experienced that before so I was prepared. Well it would be rude not to I thought.
Carole’s writing is always warm and friendly and I enjoyed meeting the friends again. This is what true friendship is all about – laughs, support through troubled times and advice aplenty. I loved Lucy who goes all out to get new recipe ideas and her trip to Bruges! Well that had me chuckling.
These friends have been through a lot together and what a wonderful way to wrap up their story with a Christmas bow. The next book is out early next year and there’s a new development! Can’t wait.
2000s: Two years after To Catch A Rabbit, Sean Denton is back and Doncaster has another challenge.
Sean Denton is no longer a PSCO but a fully fledged police officer, a constable if you will, and is training and working hard in his home town of Doncaster. He ends up working ona case which is developing ion the estate where his father lives. A young muslim man has been found murdered and racial tensions are high. Added to this is the fact that the infamous Chasebridge killer has been released from prison. Then there’s chloe, recently released from prison and living in a bail hostel in York. Times are changing and not everyone is able to adapt to their new situation. Yorkshire is not the quiet place you may think it is.
Place and setting
Doncaster is the literary stomping ground of Helen Cadbury and this time she takes us to an even darker side and delves into racial tensions together with the anger and frustration in a working class community and its problems.
Doncaster may also be Sean Denton’s patch but when he is called to solve a crime on the very estate where his father still lives, he is in a unique yet difficult position towork amongst the residents in an area he knows as an insider whilst working as an officer of the law.
Chasebridge Estate is the focal point for the story and there is a Clean Up Chasebridge campaign to help try and sort out the area’s problems. The estate has many problems such as suspected drug dealers and other criminal activity. Tensions are high and neighbours mistrustful of each other. A killer returned to their midst is not going to be well received.
Sean understands better than most the idio-syncrancies of these people, his people and has the trust of many of them. He still cares for the place and so has a fine line to walk in protecting and bringing justice to the killer. The estate is a melting pot and Sean has to be careful about how much he stirs up what’s inside.
Meanwhile in York, a young lady by the name of Chloe Toms has been released from prison and is now living in a woman’s bail hostel and she is struggling to cope with life outside. So much has changed since she was locked up, the world has moved on and that someone however has not forgotten and now she has to deal with someone who seems to be out to get here. Her life is one of a new beginning but in a new strange and alien world and so her journey towards normality of sorts is not going to be easy.
Yorkshire – both Doncaster and York itself showcase a range of characters with working class communities and a past and present which could clash if they are not careful.
2000s – A prisoner sprung from a van on a Newcastle road will lead to a trail of conspiracy reaching all the way to murder.
A disgraced Special Branch officer sits in the back of a prison van on its way to Durham prison. No sooner has it set off then armed men storm the van and hijack the prisoner.
The prisoner, Jack Fenwick is the former boss of Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan who is immediately suspected of somehow being involved. He is suspended and so locked out of the manhunt.
However when the official investigation goes awry, Ryan is determined to find out what really is going on and so he goes ‘underground’ enlisting others to help him get to the truth.
The truth turns out to belot darker than Ryan or anyone else could have imagined and will take them to Norway in the grip of an international conspiracy that is by no means over yet.
Place and setting
North East of England
Crown Court Newcastle. From the start as the prison van carrying Jack Fenwick leaves the court at Newcastle’s Quayside and makes its way across the Swing Bridge, making its way into Gateshead and towards Durham, you just know where this is going to happen and the impact when it does it by no means diminished. The hijacking is brutal and vivid, emotions raw and the hunt is on.
The aftermath takes you on a journey in and around Newcastle, the inner workings of Northumbria police and the Professional Standards branch. The demands of the jobs are brutal and unforgiving, the dedication of the team clear yet there are some characters who seem hell bent on getting their own foot on the ladder and to heck with anyone else.
The team are made up of Eloise O’Neill – a no nonsense taking woman and DI Macguire who represents everything Ryan hates in a copper. The animosity and suspicion of the police of one of their own bristles and rankles with Ryan’s belief in the truth. Grace Ellis a retired officer who worked with Jack in the Serious Incident Squad creates a ‘silent room’ – a secret bunker style of incident room where a team kept out of the official investigation start their own.
The North East is a nice backdrop to the search – local colour is interspersed at regular intervals to place the action. From the small village of Dunstan Steads where Ryan lives to the inner city setting of Fenham where Grace lives and where the local news team headed by the real life presenter Ian Payne (as himself) comes to the fore blends local colour nicely with an author proud of her surroundings.
The investigation takes a new turn when it is discovered that the death of a Norwegian national could be linked to the case. That’s where this mention of Norway ends however as the events which take place here are central to the novel and so it’s on the booktrail map but you have to read the book to find out why.
Well Mari, you certainly know how to ramp up the tension and create a police team that pulls no punches! With her paintbrush speckled with North East colour, she washes it over the gritty, punchy story, interspersed with action, fast moving events and a trail which leads to a very interesting and unique conclusion!
This is no Kate Daniels. Heck I’m sure she could work in the team but then I was rather afraid of O’Neill and Maguire myself so kudos if the three of them should ever meet. These are the tough guys – the hard men of Northumbria police. These guys mean business – violence, double dealing and a dark dark core makes this a thrilling, bumpy and dangerous ride.
I liked Ryan. He had guts and determination to find out what really happened and the premise of the silent room was intriguing. I shall now wander down Nuns Moor Road where Grace lived and wonder where this place could be…hmm and in quiet Fenham who would have guessed?
The splashes of local colour such as Ian Payne, mention of Gazza, the Quayside and the heritage of the old pub in Central station makes this a novel which stands proudly on the NE literary map.
This is a gritty read and it was a real surprise to see how events took them to Norway and a whole other area of intrigue. Being a language fan, it was great to read the smattering of Norwegian which added to the overall sense of place. The conspiracy unravelled and there were some unexpected and neatly done twists.
Mari I am now going to rest a little, my heart thumping as it is. I need to lie down somewhere quiet although maybe not in the silent room that you write about.
A selection of short stories showcasing London’s finest crime fighting duo at the Peculiar Crimes Unit
There are some cases that as a police officer you never forget. Cases that aren’t even properly explained in the telling of your stories so when there is a chance to revisit these cases and investigate them in detail, the result is a unique caseload entitled ‘London’s glory’
Call them cold cases, old cases, call them what you will, but be sure that as Bryant and May cases there will be careful consideration to get things cleared up.
As the doors of the Peculiar Crimes Unit reopen, the files of investigations with settings as diverse as a circus freak show, on board a London Tour bus and even a yacht off the coast of Turkey come under the spotlight
Place and Setting
Bryant and May – named after a brand of matches and with much more spark. The book opens with a history of the duo themselves from their creator Christopher Fowler with his inspiration for creation of their quirks, London banter, inspiration from other London detective such as Sherlock and the creation of the most peculiar crime agency in the capital if not the world.
London as a setting and historical setting in particular offers more than one scenario for a crime story. It’s not just the smog or the streets of the city that set the scene, it’s the history and thestrange facts, strange scenarios and events captured in the pages of history that form the ideal London for Bryant and May.
London in a matchbox:
The Department Store – Secret Santa in Selfridges
Primrose Hill– and its execution history!
Hampstead Common – a scene of murder
The Barbican – poison on the cards?
And the reasons for the Peculiar Crime Unit’s various locations in Bow Street, Mornington Crescent and Caledonian Road.
To discover London through the eyes of Bryant and May is to discover the lives of these two characters as they have moved around investigating different parts of the city, discovering various characters, various back alleys and many quirks that you may not get to see otherwise.
Bryant and May are a very thrilling duo and you’ll never see London, its history and its essence in any other way.
REVIEW – Susan
If you love Bryant and May you’ll find this very interesting which I did as this was a potted history of their London and the cases you remember reading about and those that you don’t– each one examined through unique eyes.
The history of london through its detective such as Sherlock and others who have been in the city is an interesting one and I really felt as if I was sat next to Christopher Fowler himself as he told me his deepest secrets and inspiration for his novels. How his love and fascination for the city and its quirks and how he managed to get this into his novels.
It’s a friendly, humourous read and the cases range from the weird to the bizarre. I tried to ration my reading but it was impossible as I wanted to find out a bit more and see where I would go next with Bryant and May.
These two are just the kind of people you’d want to meet for a drink. Oh the stories they would telland how they would tell them!- you just know there are gems to come in future books.
One of the most perfect literary guides we know for London has to be Christopher Fowler.
London – its quirks, idiosyncrancies, history and essence all feature in his books with the dashing duo of Bryant and May. His latest? A series of short stories filling in some of the gaps of previous cases and exploring angles you may not have considered before.
These are the books, the Bryant and May ‘guides to London’ where history and setting is as much a character as the police characters themselves. Think you know the city? Well you’ve not met Christopher and discovered how he portrays the city in his tales of crime and intrigue…
Welcome to the London of Christopher Fowler…..
I was born in the centre of London and let loose in Piccadilly Circus at about age four, so it always fascinated me. As kids we used to sneak into the scenery docks of theatres and watch rehearsals, and generally treated London as our playground; it never felt weird or unsafe. Although I’ve since lived in other countries, it was obvious that I should settle on London as my main location for books. One of my favourite locations for a story was the Clerkenwell House of Detention, one of the most disturbing underground buildings I’ve ever entered, and it’s impossible to live nearby and not be aware of what lies below the streets. You can see the Fleet tributaries through drain covers, and follow the chain of wells from King’s Cross down through Farringdon to the river. It’s a perfect setting for a murder mystery.
But for me there were other connections. My parents met in The Griffin pub on Clerkenwell Road, having worked at the nearby engineering firm of Griffin & Tatlock together. My father bought his wedding ring from a friend in Hatton Garden, and my mother always took me to the circus in the basement of Gamages department store in Holborn at Christmas. My first fountain pen came from one of the local suppliers, as did my first typewriter. Today I still live just a short walk away in King’s Cross.
At the London Metropolitan Archive, I read the story of the party-loving Lady Hatton whose dance with the Devil became a London myth. This became the basis of ‘Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart’. The more I dig into any part of London, the more I end up including it in the finished book.
Dickens pointed out that in London even the snowflakes were covered in soot, ‘gone into mourning for the death of the sun’, and there’s something about the low level of light that mutes the shades of brick and concrete, and depresses those of us who suffer through the purgatorial month of February. The geography of London near the river matches its weather, being perverse, willful, confusing and unsettling. The roads are always atmospheric, so they make fertile ground for the creation of dark tales. Add to that mix the stories of murders and hangings associated with Smithfield, the animal bones washed down from the butcheries on the riverbanks, and half the job is done for me.
All this makes writing (and reading) my crime novels sound depressing, but I have a lot of fun mixing fact and fiction, sending my elderly detectives around the backstreets in search of murderers. Fans write from around the world asking about the different London areas I use. I can’t see myself ever running out of ideas, because London provides them. One day I’ll have to start my own guided tour!
Well, what a lovely idea to end on, a Bryant and May guided tour seen through the eyes of Mr Christopher Fowler. Now that would be a tour to remember!
2000s and the past: What were you like as a teenager. Remember what really went on?
Leah can run but she can’t hide. She hides out in her London flat and lives a rather solitary life with only her books for company. What might sound ideal for any bookworm soon reveals itself to be anything but and Leah is actually hiding from her past and is very lonely.
When she meets Julian, it would see that life is getting better, but things change when on the anniversary of that day she is trying so hard to forget, she receives an anonymous card telling her that someone knows the truth and that they’re after Leah.
What did happen all those years ago, What and who is Leah and where will it all end?
Place and Setting
London present day
Life in a London flat with books for company might seem ideal but it is far from it. Leah lives an anonymous life with no social life and outside contact. She is on the run and hiding from herself with no friends and a job she can do with her eyes closed although it in a library!. Living in the big smoke if you want to ‘disappear’ seems relatively easy for despite the numbers of people living there, you can feel the most alone you have ever felt. Still that suits Leah well. She blends into the London landscape she says. Perfect
The setting in Leah’s world is more like a social desert with the winds blowing in the odd man in the library who she talks to, and a dating website when she tries to contact with the world outside. But contact opens up a whole new danger.
The Past – At School
Leah at school is a carefree girl with a boyfriend Adam who she idolises to the point of putting him on a pedestal. But the picture slowly forms of a school life that was not so perfect after all and a day in particular…
Teenagers do what teenagers do, but these guys like to not only push boundaries, cross them and more.
What did she do, or what happened that was so awful? The story of her high school days are dizzying and complex as one piece falls into place one after the other and to appreciate how it all fits, you have to stand back and take in the bigger picture. Everyone remembers their school days but some memories won’t stay buried for long. This story of teenage misdemeanors comes back and bites you right where it hurts.
That cover got me first. That tunnel and the way the no is smudged to suggest something very blurred and wrong.A place to have secrets and a dark tunnel with a chilling silhouette that grabbed me from the word go.
I thought I would like Leah – works with books, lives with books but just like the characters, you think you know someone… I don’t want to say too much for fear of suggesting things away. Suffice to say there were a lot of reasons to have an interest in Leah and to want to know more about her. The novel is mainly set in present day London but the story told in flashbacks to the past was a real head spinner. A person’s past can affect them in many different ways and those teenager years…what they can do to a person! There are more than a red herring or two to quash any assumptions you think you might have when reading this.
It’s clever the way the author has written this -making me feel so uncertain about the main character. It’s fast and pacey too– a real mix of emotions wrapped upin one girl’s life. The ending did not disappoint either and maybe it’s just my natural noisiness but I really did want to know what, why, how and when and those questions never stopped throughout. I love a book which takes you by surprise and this one certainly did.