Ann Cleeves is one of my favorite murder mystery writers, for several reasons. You’ve probably seen the TV series ‘Vera’ in which one of her best known characters is brought to life by the wonderful Brenda Blethyn.
She sets her novels in places where she’s spent time during her rather varied career – Shetland Islands being a good example – so she’s able to create a remarkably vivid and realistic sense of place.
A theme common to many of her stories is how events in the past, sometimes from long ago, can impact on the present and dictate people’s behavior. I’m happy to admit that it was Ann who led me to try something similar in my first murder mystery, The Man He Didn’t Know.
I particularly like how she takes the time to dig into the psychology of her characters and then realistically reflect it in their thoughts and actions. This makes for slightly slower action, but the sense of being with real people more than makes up for that.
Particularly in the Shetland series, with its remoteness and often difficult weather conditions, she shows how place shapes psychology and personality, and ultimately behavior.
And I’m always surprised by her endings.
Ann’s books were in the mid list range for many year, with Vera being her breakout vehicle. And what a breakout. Last year, she won the CWA Diamond Dagger at their annual awards. Wow!
Even if you’ve seen the TV series, I still recommend the books. I think they’re better.