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!
This time Vera heads to East Yorkshire and the bird watching landscape of Spurn Point. Vera however is watching and waiting for criminals…
Story in a nutshell
Ten years ago Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen-year-old Abigail Mantel. But now it turns out that she may in fact have been innocent all along – and if that weren’t bad enough this means the killer is still at large.
Emma Bennett was Abigail’s friend who found her that day and it’s something she has never forgotten. Justice now for her best friend is what she wants.
Enter Vera and her straight talking investigation which takes the villagers of East Elvet back to a time they would rather forget. Just what is it they wish to remain buried?
Place and setting
The inspirational setting for much of the action
Elvet may be fictional yet the area around Spurn Point and the region of East Yorkshire as a whole is clearly the setting for the third Vera novel. The point is geographically similar to Spurn but its not all the same. A fictional landscape somewhere East of Hull which is very reminiscent of the area however,
The fictional Elvet is a small town with many secrets of its own-
And this closed community seems reluctant to have its secrets looked into or for the old investigation to be reopened and reexamined. Vera has a lot on her plate but her presence, even if not on her usual home patch is necessary to reveal the secrets of this place
Hull and the Humber River
The raw and rocky storm wrecked coast at the mouth of the Humber River is an unique setting – the ships which go up and down the coast here in and out of the port make for a unique history of the area –
He joined ships at the mouth of the Huber and brought them safely into the docks at Hull, Goole or Immingham
The activity of pilots on the Humber illustrates a certain way of life which brings the area evoked to life. The life of the Coxswains is one we’d never read much about in literature –
Most of their life was spent waiting. The coxwains of the pilot launches waited for the tide and the crew of the sole permanently manned lifeboat
In real life, the pilots have moved out of their old office in Hull but to the author’s knowledge the office has not been sold for redevelopment, and the coxwains of the pilot launch don’t live there for real.
Spurn Point’s a very distinctive place. Ann Cleeves speaks of a place she knows well since her husband is a keen bird watcher as is she and they have spent much time near here. The open spaces, the fact that the land is slowly merging into the sea as it erodes away and the sense of impermanence of the area with the migrating birds and the changing weather and waters.
It was skinnier than it had been, a spit of land shaped like a dropping wasted phallus hanging into the mouth of the river from the north bank
Vera is back in her second literary outing and this time heading to East Yorkshire we see Vera venturing out to solve the murder of a young girl who was strangled 10 years previous. Together with a new killing, Vera has two problems to solve and the biggest one has to be the deceit and insular small village by the name of Elvet.
There’s something about small and insular villages or island communities which is fascinating in crime fiction and I loved the way Vera edged or rather barged her way in. She enters the novel earlier than in book one and so I felt I got to know her better. She’s quite a character and if she were real, I would love to meet her in real life, over a beer or a cup of tea.
The two murder threads and the strange police in a closed co,,unity setting are great features of this book and it’s not easy to discover who is guilty. What appears at times clear cut is not and the case is a lot more complicated than it seems.
Love Ann’s writing – so evocative of place and deep in characterisation so you can clearly picture everything you read. It was also lovely to find out more about Spurn Point and the birdlife there since this is a love close to the author’s heart.
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 –
Why a booktrail? Vera burst into the literary scenes back in 1999 and both she and her creator Ann Cleeves have put the North East of England firmly on the literary map.
Story in a nutshell–
Set mainly in the remote landscape of theNorth Pennines, three very different women come together to complete an environmental survey.
They are to stay at a local cottage and live together whilst their work is completed. But each of the woman comes with more baggage that than which contains their soil collecting samples and landscaping equipment.
Each has a link to the land in some way and a personal search for answers of some sort. The land is of interest to a local quarry business and the local farm is at the centre of the area being studied.
But what Rachel finds there on arrival shocks her to the core and reveals a deep seated mine of intrigue and ultimately murder.
Cue Vera and her acerbic wit and investigative style – this is a Northern DCI with a harsh exterior but a softer centre – just don’t underestimate her that’s all we’re saying. This is her patch and she is after the truth…..
In the Crow Trap, we head over the North Pennines for the windswept and desolate moors, but not before visiting the stunning sights of Northumberland such as Wooler, RAF Boulmer , Kimmerston and the stunning surroundings of this beautiful part of the world
For this is where three women have gathered in order to carry out an environmental study. But it turns out that the environment is not really what they are concerned with and that they each separately have reasons for being there and secrets that they are careful to keep hidden.
THE NORTH PENNINES
The North Pennines where the team are carrying out a environmental study – the rocks, crags and natural habitat are described with the Ann Cleeves magic. As Rachel, one of the women in the study starts to prepare the area to study –
The moorland patch was less easy to define. The map showed drainage ditches, a dry stone wall, but even in good visibility she knew it would be hard to keep to the transect lines in such a featureless landscape.
This is a region where a lot of natural studies do take place as the North Pennines information page shows –
But throughout there issense of the rawness, the remoteness and the starkness of the landscape – a perfect backdrop to the novel’s underlying theme of secrets, betrayal and hidden agendas….
From the mine Rachel broke away from thetrack and took the direct climb to the top of Hope Crag. From there she could lock onto her moorland survey square.The land sloped gentlyin a series of plateaux to the horizon which was softened by woodland…..
There is a disused lead mine, a quarry, and the mystery of the crow trap, as featured in the title –
The trap was a large wire mesh cage with a funnel in the top.Inside a live, tame crow fluttered provocatively, inviting in another to defend its territory. Once in through the funnel there was not way out. Presumably they had to find some form of co-existence until the keeper came along to put the intruder out of its misery.
Crows were territorial creatures…
Newcastle of course gets a mention and for any one who remembers the days of old, this should make you smile –
Farnons for school uniform, Bainbridges for curtain material, lunch in the studenty cafeopposite the Theatre Royal, M and S for knickers and back to the Haymarket for the 3 o’clock bus
Welcome to the North Pennines and Northumberland
Vera is everything that you could hope for from a North East DCI. She’s hardy, gritty and no nonsense in her approach. Yet from her appearance and manner you would hardly take her for a DCI. Shabby, and looking like a bag lady who has wandered in off the street, she may not look the part but that’s sometimes what makes her so effective – people and criminals don’t expect she’ll ever get the upper hand. Haha more fool them.
The mystery of the three women on the environmental survey evokes a lot of the landscape and settings in and around Northumberland and the Pennines. The mystery is neatly done and the threads which appear loose all come together with skill.
Vera has a unique way of solving mysteries, interviewing witnesses and suspects and likes to observe. A very cool character and this first outing is a must read.
A metro full of Christmas revellers has stopped at a station before its final destination, due to the ‘wrong sort of snow’. Everybody gets off, except an old lady, nicely dressed. Joe Ashworth is on the train that night with his young daughter Jesse – they should be home by now, best phone a taxi. Jesse goes to the old lady ‘Look that old lady hasn’t moved’
The taxi firm answered his call at the same time as Jesse screamed
Place and setting
This is a novel where the setting IS one of the leading characters and even though the Mardle of the novel is fictional, it is no less threatening and gloomy –
Mardle wasn’t a place for tourists, even in the summer. There was nothing beyond the fisheries except the harbour, enclosed by the wall. The boats there were dark shadows, half-hidden by the drifting flakes.
It soon became clear that there was lots about Harbour Street that wasn’t attractive – hidden secrets, dark pasts, twisted thoughts and the fact that none of the residents here seem willing to talk.
Why would such well dressed and elegant lady find herself living in Mardle and more importantly who would want to kill her?
Even Vera thinks that she was ‘more Gosforth than Mardle from her appearance. (Gosforth was one of Newcastle’s posher suburbs.)
Harbour Street is just the kind of chewy puzzle Vera loves to sink her teeth into – she admits she feels a thrill when she is in Fenwicks of Newcastle shopping and the call comes in telling her a woman has been killed on the metro. But then guilt replaces it as she remembers that everysomeone has a relative or friend that wil be devastated.
At the end of the street, like a beacon or a square glowing moon, shone the yellow cab with the black M that marked the metro station. This was Harbour Street
Mardle -inspired by Amble when the author wrote the book but only in a logistical sense! Alnmouth – where Harbour Street is filmed. Nothing like Mardle thankfully!
It is not just the Northumberland landscape that is featured as we also get a short tour around the city of Newcastle itself –
Newcastle was full of people and friendly, they walked arm in arm between the art galleries , crossing the tyne by the Blinking Eye Bridge. or
The Metro into Newcastle for an afternoon of culture – a new exhibition at the Baltic on the river and a stroll around the Laing Art Gallery
Special mention has to be made of Newcastle where we meet Vera in an unfamiliar setting – shopping!
So here she was in Fenwick’s department store, sweating because she was still in her outdoor clothes, surrounded by smart and shiny people.
Finally mention should be made of a place central to the plot of the book where Vera goes looking for someone. It is a fantastic place and so well described here. Everyone needs to go here just maybe not on a trail with Vera stomping behind you –
Some library? A visit to a proper place for books to be cherished
The Lit and Phil library?..
It’s where book -lovers hang out’
Vera stood outside the Georgian symmetry of the Lit and Phil library in Newcastle
They climbed the stairs to the library on the first floor and opened the door to s room flooded with light from the glass domes. The walls were made of books
A murder mystery with a meaty puzzle to get your teeth stuck into. Vera at her very best. And a tour of Northumberland and Newcastle, not to mention a starting role for its special place for book lovers.
Harbour that thought when you read Harbour Street.
Welcome to a ten point tour of some of the best hidden and not so hidden reading spaces in the North East. There are many more, many more that did not make the cut. We give you now a whistle stop tour of 10 places in the North East for you to sample. This is only the start. Something to whet your literary appetites.
This is the tour itinerary –
As you may know the literary characters of Vera Stanhope (from the books by Ann Cleeves) and Kate Daniels (from the Mari Hannah novels) are prone to wander these parts. This is their stomping ground after all. So you may end up bumping into one of them at some point. As Vera herself might say – ‘Keep an eye out pet ‘
1. First stop – Bamburgh Castle
Pick up your book and read in the castle grounds, beside its stone walls – of particular note as it features heavily in Mari Hannah’s latest novel – Monument to Murder. Don’t forget the surrounding coastline! Stunning is not the word.
2. Heading down the coast….Why not stop off at Low Newton – famous for its small village, gorgeous beaches and gorgeous views. Not to mention the roaring fires of the The Ship Inn – It’s where another local author, Hazel Osmond set some of her novel The Last Time I saw your Face –
3. Alnwick next – Barter Books and Alnwick Castle
You have to visit the Harry Potter castle if you come to the North East and what better way to experience it than by taking a copy of one of the books and reading the scene where they all play Quidditch – It’s Alnwick Castle of course! This is also the ideal spot to read a bit of Jane Eyre and imagine you are looking at Thornfield Hall or even a bit of Jane Austen – Pemberley Hall anyone?
Alnwick is also the home of the amazing station/book emporium known as Barter Books – Alnwick Station, Northumberland NE66 2NP. Sell those you have read and buy some more. Sit beside a roaring fire, drink coffee and eat the home made ginger biscuits………..They discovered the Keep Calm and Carry On poster – yes that one – but somewhere there must be one saying keep calm and just keep reading -for this is THE spot to do it in –
4. Now, hop in that car or jump on that bus as we’re heading off to Corbridge for our next reading space – If you want another book to read on this tour then look no further than Forum Books – for their amazing support of getting authors for events, great banter and advice about the books they read and personally recommend – 8 Market Place Corbridge
Corbridge is also the setting for a rather gruesome scene in the first Kate Daniels novel –
Book Purchases in hand – head on over to the Tea and Tipple cafe- just across the Market Place from Forum Books – and sit back and enjoy….
5. Off to Hexham now, just up the road , to Cogito books
A small quiet oasis of a shop hidden down a cobbled alley through an arch – (a bit Diagon Alley ish from Harry Potter) just off the main square in Hexham . You may want to pick up a book here – they’ve got oodles of them. And a lovely comfy couch to sit on and relax. But don’t fall asleep there, well I was so comfortable and had just finished the wonderful Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden and wanted to stay in that world just a little bit longer…..
6. Right now, we’re off to Newcastle. Public transport is great so no worries there, but if you’re feeling adventurous, why not travel in style? Vera – ‘Oh not for me pet’ Read from the best vantage point there is for a glorious view of The Angel of the North
Can you read when flying up in a helicopter? If you’d like to try, then there are many trips you can take if you have the stomach for it. Or if not, you can off course go by car and then sit at the base and READ.
7. The city centre beckons now – so we’re off to the Sage for a great reading space – the centre for musical excellence as well as some of the most atmospheric reading experiences you will ever have.
Ooh another excuse to sit down and spend time reading in somewhere with a view and most likely a musical soundtrack? Its only the Sage in Gateshead. Make the most of the approach by carrying your book across the Millennium Bridge and walking up the stairs for the full effect. Then sit back and enjoy. A walk along the Quayside , along the banks of the River Tyne- stomping ground for both Kate and Vera – will provide many points to stop and read.
8. If you’re feeling peckish at this point, why not head out to The Living Room on Grey Street where Kate Daniels met for a meeting to discuss a case –
Don’t have much time to linger in the city centre – that’s the topic for another tour – now we’re off to the coast. On the Metro – careful as you don’t want to end up as Margaret Krukowski did in the latest Ann Cleeves novel Harbour Street – but a nice long ride on the Metro can give commuters some very nice reading time indeed. Just as well there is no stop called Mardle as there is in the book…..
9. Jump off the metro and we’re in Tynemouth for some ‘Light beside the Seaside’ –
Feel the sand in your feet and sit on the rocks recreating the scenes and sounds of The Light between Oceans. Not only are the rocks a great place to sit but the beaches are too!
I left this until last as the last time I went I got so lost that I ended up staying for four days and nights. Its that full of books that I could not get out as I could not find the door – nor did I want to to be honest. I would live here if I could. There are gazillions of books and the owner knows exactly where they are. I’m sure he’s read all of them. There is even a miniature version of the shop in the children’s room. So even if you’re tiny there is a place to sit and read
The North East really is a book lover’s paradise.
For more information on the books featured – please pay Kate and Vera a visit –
For more information about the places featured, then please contact info (at) the booktrail.com. We can customise a trail or itinerary and pick the ideal places for you. This is only a taster of where we read! Welcome to the North East of hidden reading spaces. Hope to see you soon.