Already a successful post on the blog, we’ve updated it and mapped out all the locations in the book – some film locations and where a place is fictional, we show you the best places to go to evoke the setting Vera sees.
On the new site you can click and visit these places for real. Use the little yellow man to step into the book yourself!
Tonight’s fairground based story was filmed on the Town Moor in Newcastle where each year a huge fun fair visits the North East and stays a short time during the summer months. Well I say summer, it normally rains but it never dampens the fun! Seeing Vera film in a makeshift fun fair was a lot of fun and will be brilliant to see it on screen for real!
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!
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.
Fictional characters are good people to know. They’re like our friends, share many of our milestones in life – those we meet at school, those in classic novels, the first person we admire and want to be, the person who teaches us about life and those that give us a sense of adventure…
Here we’ve chosen four characters as represented on book covers. Fictional friends and people we admire and want to spend time with for various reasons..
A Childhood friend – Moon Face from Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood series
The stories take place in an enchanted forest in which there is the most magical of trees called the ‘Faraway Tree’.It’s very tall and the top of it disappears into the clouds. Many characters live in the cave like dwellings that are carved into its trunk. When Jo, Bessie and Fanny move into a house nearby and meet Moonface, one of the characters in the novel, I wanted to be his friend and have adventures in the Faraway Tree. He has rounded furniture and a magic slide that goes all the way to the bottom of the tree. How I wanted to go on that slide!
A friend to introduce you to a new world of intrigue -Nella from The Miniaturist – Set in Amsterdam
The Miniaturist was the hit book of 2014 and deservedly so as this novel, set in Amsterdam 1686 had such an amazing premise of a miniaturist who predicted events in the small objects she created, was an immediate draw. Nella is portrayed on the front cover which I just really wanted to climb inside and explore along with the others in the story. But it was Nella and her journey I wanted to go on – despite the difficulties and heartbreak she suffers as it was her spirit and personality I liked and I wanted to befriend her pet Peebo as well if I’m honest. Put Marin in her place as well perhaps. And furnish that exquisite dollshouse! A world to disappear inside – rather like that in the novel itself.
Tough friend you need when in trouble – Vera from Ann Cleeves crime fiction novels set in Northumberland
Vera doesn’t take any prisoners – well she does in her job since she’s a very effective police Detective, but in her coarse comments and witty but gritty asides, you know where you stand.
This is the kind of person I would love to meet for she would be loyal yet honest, brutally so perhaps but you know you can always depend on her and she always gets the job done. She might rub you up the wrong way, like the creases in her raincoat, but you know what you are getting from Vera. No nonsense results and a loyalty that you will never forget.
A friend to go travelling with – Passepartout from Around the World in 80 Days
Passepartout was my inspiration for everything – from booktrailing to learning languages, this guy has been my lifelong travelling companion. As I followed him and his ideas around the world and even studied French to be more like him. What started as a childhood adventure has taken me to so many places and languages via books and for real and for that I can consider him a friend in a million who I would love to meet for real and shake his hand. He represents travel, adventure, the sense of never giving up and solving problems for his friend Phileas Fogg and I would love to go travelling with him.
In a secluded rural Northumberland community, life seems good. Valley Farm is a small and quiet place tucked in the rolling countryside – a lovely country estate at its heart. Its owners have gone on holiday and have employed a house sitter to take care of things whilst they are away. For Patrick, a young ecologist, it’s the perfect rural retreat..for a while.
For Patrick is found dead in the lane beside the house. Vera comes to investigate but neither she nor Joe is prepared for what they find next. A second body. The two victims seemed to have been entomologists– particularly interested in moths.
As Vera goes about digging for the truth in her own indomitable style, she finds that Valley Farm is hiding rather a lot of secrets and that like a moth to a flame, getting too close to the truth could prove fateful.
Place and Setting
Valley Farm – so typical ( in a good way!) of the lovely rural communities in and around the Tyne Valley in the Northumberland countryside. Gilswick is fictional but the beauty, remoteness and rural aspect of its communities is reminiscent of so many places here.
It’s in this valley with its converted farmhouse and barn conversions which may seem small and non descript that hides more secrets than Vera can shake her head at. Three couples live here, all retired and living the good life in a beautiful part of the world. From the outside looking in, the view is a happy one, but the dark vignette is closing in on the happy scene.
With one couple away, Patrick comes to enjoy housesitting for a while. Next door live a couple expecting their jailbird daughter home any day now. From a window elsewhere, a man sits and watches the desolate view…
For one couple, in particular, the next few days will be charged with emotions as their daughter is due to be released from prison at the weekend.
Two victims in such a unusual and unique location –two very different victims, a young student and a middle aged man in a smart suit – their interest in moths and this house in Valley Farm is the only link between them.
The setting for this latest Vera outing is claustrophobic and chilling. Such a small community, retired residents….the last place you would expect to find two murders in one day. And who could have wanted to harm either of them?
This community, too small to be described as a village should be a countryside idyll with its trees, surrounding meandering lanes and vast fields. But this turns into a remote, shadowy place where silence is chilling and the peace shattered by fear and suspicion.
And the moths, oh the Moths, creatures which flap and flutter in the dark, in their desperation to find the light. Creatures who are ugly and who form cocoons around them before they emerge- rather apt for this setting and for Vera’s latest case.
Moths are often regarded as pests for the way they eat the very fabric of what they find. Like in this case, the fabric of this society . Vera must do what she can to catch this infestation but it;s not going to be easy.
Ann Cleeves is a superb writer for creating something out of nothing – likea word wizard in which a small and insignificant community like Valley Farm and Gilswick could be such a menacing and secretive place. And Moths? Bbbr even when I read the title, it made me shiver. Not a fan of bugs of any description and this gave me the chills as visions of dark places, insects and murder came into my mind.
And what lies behind those curtains of those picture postcard stone cottages? Roaring fires, cosy interiors or something a bit more hedonistic and wild? It’s always the quiet ones you’ve got to look out for. I was intrigued to see what Vera would make of it all with her no nonsense attitude. From the way she tackled the claustrophobic nature of Harbour Street, I had every faith in her, and she didn’t disappoint.
More character development here too with Vera, Joe and Holly and also interestingly Vera’s father.
Just found out this is going to be televised on ITV in 2016 – it’s going to be episode 3 of the new series and I for one can’t wait.
Life for a first year university student is a serious of challenges and new experiences. Parties, drink, going wild…..but ending up dead? You may not want to read this if you’re starting university anytime soon.
Story in a nutshell
Durham, North East England
When a first year Durham university student is found murdered at the banks of the River Wear, the whole city is in shock. Emily Brabents was from the privileged and popular set at Joyce College. A cradle for the best of their kind.
DI Erica Martin starts to investigate the crime but the more she digs, the harder the resistance she comes up against – for this is a very close-knit community where jealousy, obsession and layered secrets form the bed rock of university life.
So when someone then confesses, she doesn’t know what to make of it. For the picture of Emily emerging from the investigation is a lot more complicated than at first thought. And just who is Daniel who seems to be the only one who really really cares?
Place and setting
Durham, North East England – the home of a prestigious university high up overlooking the banks of the river Wear, home of the annual Durham Regatta and a beautiful place to live.
But in Bitter Fruits, the river Wear is a crime scene and the corridors of Durham University are awash with secrets, lies, cover ups and obsession.
From the moment the novel opens at the discovery of the body, Prebends Bridge flanked by bushy trees and a neat riverside walk, becomes a crime scene. The River Wear has only just been a scene of celebration for the students involved in the famous Durham Regatta weekend. The safety of the students is now a concern as it the reputation of the university itself.
DI Erica Martin has just moved to Durham so this is a new and difficult territory for her. Establishing an investigation within the confines of an enclosed academic environment is not as easy task. Fighting through the web of intrigue to get to the truth is one thing but the dubious confession is the most confusing aspect of all.
University life and the struggle of wanting and trying to fit in are gloriously and chillingly recreated. Some girls including Emily want to be like the men and prove their ‘worth’. The struggle to fit it, the ways to get noticed, the scrutiny of other students via social media. This is a harsh and bleak landscape..
First year at university should be the start of a young person’s future but sometimes as portrayed here it is a complex and slippery slope into the abyss. Social media in a traditional and academic setting makes for a contrast of values – old and new, decaying and fresh,freedom and a sense of entrapment.
Just let me take a breath here. That was quite a read! I’m just thankful I’m not at university anymore. Now, I do realise that this is fiction, but the picture it paints of university life is not one you’d want to be involved with yourself. The backstabbing, weirdos on campus, not to mention the staff…thank goodness this is a novel. A raw stab of a read.
DI Erica Martin, new to Durham and new to the world of academia is a great character who is adept at rooting out the secrets and lies of the students she meets. You find out what she does at the same time via diary entries of Daniel, one of Emily’s fellow students, and the updates of the investigation as one leads back to another and then back again! As the picture forms, life at the university is revealed as a dark and dangerous place. What does go on in the halls of academia?
University life here is a den of cyber bulling and cyber stalking and as you’re drawn deeper into a psychological minefield, there are a lot of issues highlighted here that might just make you stop and think.
Gritty – for the police and the students – and for the reader!
Set in the old mining landscape of County Durham, where loyalties from the past come back to haunt the present
Story in a nutshell
Durham, present day
Young girls are being abducted and murdered but Detective Constable Ian Bradshaw struggles to find any leads – he’s a little out of favour too which doesn’t help. And he needs all the help he can get right now.
Another one out of favour is journalist Tom Carney – suspended from his London paper and now back in County Durham where he was born and bred. He and the new reporter on the block discover a case that could well have secrets buried as deep as the mines themselves.
For the most recent victim found is a decades old corpse. Trouble is decades old communities are the hardest to chip away at in order to find the deepest buried secrets
Place and setting
Set in the North East of England, in a fictional yet instantly recognisable ex-mining village, this is the first in the series of DC Ian Bradshaw and a reporter who returns to the region after many years away.
The story opens up in County Durham 1993 with the most creepy of beginnings. Someone is watching a young girl and getting ready to murder her. Then the action jumps to London where the young reporter originally from the North East is set to return a phone call that will change his life .
One of the cases unfolding is that of Michelle Summers who has gone missing and now a body has been found. As we meet her, the Northern humour, so prevalent in this novel comes to the fore –
In Michelle’s view, she lived in a shabby village in the middle of nowhere, at the arse end of the north east of England, and there was nothing that wasn’t at least a bus ride away, even her home.
You couldn’t get away with anything in Great Middleton”
Meanwhile North and South are set to join forces as with DC Ian Bradshaw is in charge of the serial killer investigation whilst also trying to find out the identity of an old unearthed skeleton.
The village is an old mining pit community where the outer shell is hard to crack.
That’s the weird thing, admitted Roddy, ‘the village hasn’t got that many people in it. Aside from two world wars anda couple of pit disasters most people round here die of natural causes….
The history is also never far away- as the choice for men in the region becomes clear
“A man could enlist in the forces, join the merchant navy or go and work in ship building on the Tyne. Swan Hunters took a lot of men….”
Although the village of Great Middleton is fictional, it could be representative of many of the former pit villages in and around Durham. For reasons of this booktrail we’ve selected Tanfield since it is a good starting point for a Durham tour and shares some eerie similarities! Great Middleton is said to be some 20 miles from Newcastle.
A great new addition to the North East Noir category of new characters putting even more of the north east on the map. Here the mix of past and present is a good one and the mining community with its secrets and not forgotten past histories is a good starting point for an investigation or two. The two cases covered were interesting although the one from the pas proved to be the most intriguing
Particularly like the fact that a journalist from the North East returned to his patch and worked on the case. Everyone here had their problems and issues but northern characters like these have grit and were good to get to know.
The Northern humour and dry wit also shines through– when describing a marriage and relationships with their ups and downs –
“Roller coasters are exciting but I wouldn’t want to spend 35 ruddy years on one”
It was good to meet some new characters on a new patch. The two cases covered were interesting although the one from the past proved to be the most intriguing.
Vera – that no nonsense DCI from North East England is back on our screens this Easter Sunday for an adventure not in any of the books. We can’t tell you how excited we are to have this great drama series back on the television since it showcases both the writing talents of Ann Cleeves, the scriptwriters who come up with even more drama and witty one liners for Vera, and the whole crew working to promote the North East as a good location for crime fiction fans.
The Vera liine up –
These books are not only a great set of mysteries, police procedurals and great crime stories, they also showcase the North East of England where they are set in a very interesting light. Most of the locations in the books are real and if not they are based on real places or are inspired by places you can visit for real.
Take the first Vera adventure for example –
The Crow Trap
Set in the stunning North Pennines which becomes a landscape of murder and hidden secrets when placed in the very capable hands of Ann Cleeves.
Locations featured – Newcastle, Craster, Kimmerton and the North Pennines of course which can be visited here –