Being introduced to Vera Stanhope in her first mystery was a delight. Vera’s not your normal police detective. She’s fat, she’s sloppy, she’s actually the kind of person I’d like to invite over for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake to hear more about her. Despite first impressions, she solves her cases, even convoluted cases like the one in The Crow’s Trap. Vera needs to have her own BBC tv series, she’s that original.
This is the first of the Vera Stanhope series. Vera is an older woman who manipulates her detective forces and others involved in the mystery, in much the same way as Gladys Mitchell's Mrs. Bradley. The complex story unfolds from the viewpoints of three women who are conducting an environmental survey which will determine whether an old mine will be re-opened. We see each woman's story from their own viewpoint, and this reveals each woman's opinion of the other characters, thus giving more depth to all three of the women. Rachael, the young woman in charge of the project, arrives at the cottage, where the three women will be living, to find that her friend, Bella, from the next farm, has hanged herself in the shed next to the cottage. As Rachael tries to make sense of this event, she brings in her mother, Edie, a teacher and school counselor. As they investigate, more deaths occur, which brings Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope into the picture. It takes considerable casting of nets into the sea of seemingly unconnected people and events to bring a solution and stop the killings. Cleeves is not a teller of happy stories, but her stories pull the reader in and involve them in solving the crime. I was not surprised at the identity of the murderer, but Vera had to tell us all what the motive was. I was completely surprised by it.
(The first book in the Vera Stanhope series)
After watching the first two seasons of the British TV show, Vera, I picked up this book, thinking they would be pretty much the same thing. They're not. They're actually very different. Which is both good and not so good. I was hoping they would be similar because I've come to love the series and I like the way we're with Vera and her Sargent Joe Ashworth (my favorite characters) through the whole mystery. On the other hand, I think it's a bit unique perhaps (?) to have a book that's mostly told from other people's perspectives and only in the last quarter, do we get the Inspector's POV. My point being, it was interesting the way it was told, but I wanted more Vera and Joe!
That said, this book was a fantastic read, if a bit slow. Still, I couldn't put it down. And when Vera did finally show up, I was cheering because I recognized her as Vera, her description gave her away, and because I knew she was one of the good guys while the other characters could only wonder about her until she came clean.
Anyway, this murder mystery kept me guessing all the way through, trying to pin it on one person and then another, and then another, never guessing correctly. This will surely have you on your toes until the end.
And no worries if you've already watched the episode based on this book, I don't think one will ruin the other for you. At least, it didn't for me.
I agree with the Tugboat Annie description. Brenda Blethyn of the Vera tv series has created a much more likable emotionally available character.
Gave up on books; will stick with tv show.
This is the only copy in the library system. Handle this book (paperback) with care: damaged spine with loose pages taped back on. A replacement or extra copies needed here.
PBS mystery Vera based on this series
I'm a big fan of the Vera TV series, and so was curious to read the source books. This has given me a whole new respect for the talents of BBC's screen writers and whoever else is involved in creating the TV show. Vera's character has been made much more sympathetic, intelligent, and complex. The book makes her sound like Tugboat Annie, smoking till her teeth turn brown. Not a pretty image.
However, the book does give us an unprecedented focus on the "secondary' characters, which works like a charm. Now, It is fun to watch the series and know some of the references to Vera's history.
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