I first read novels by Ann Cleeves in the 1990’s; I used to borrow her George and Molly books from the local library. George and Molly sound like characters in children’s books, but in fact they were amateur detectives and there were eight books in the series. I tried to reread them recently and found although they weren’t written that long ago, they seemed quite dated. She had another series of six books featuring Inspector Ramsey, and i read and enjoyed them too – and I’ve also reread them not so long ago. However, her books which most people would know are her Vera books, and the Shetland series; both have featured on TV which has brought them to a much wider audience. To me, these novels are a cut above her previous books, as if she has really got into her stride as a writer. Although both of these series are detective stories, they are also very engaged with the characters in the stories, particularly the main characters, Jimmy Perez and Vera. It’s perfectly possible to read them in any order, but I think it you get more from them to read them sequentially, following the lives of Vera and Jimmy. In the Shetland books Jimmy suffers several major traumas and tragedies, and he lives through difficult years dealing with the emotional impact of what life deals him. With Vera, however, the reader discovers more and more about her past as the books progress, so it’s looking at her past more than how her life changes during the course of the series.
Now Ann Cleeves has published a new book, ‘The Long Call’, the first in another detective series. This time it’s set in Devon, somewhere very close to where we live and the main character is Matthew Venn. From the beginning the story is very much concerned with Venn and past life with his family who lived in a religious community, and his husband, as much as the murder he and his team are investigating. It’s announced as the first in a series so no doubt Ann Cleeves has thoughts of at least the next book, if not more. If she has, then she must be imagining how the character will develop over the next few years. I wonder if when she started her Shetland and Vera books, when she wrote the first one if she was already planning the lives and stories of the two main protagonists?
I’m just finishing writing the seventh in a series of books I’ve written, the Radwinter series; when I wrote the first one it was a stand alone and it was only when it was published and I was thinking what to write next that I realised that the first was only half told – it was the story of Thomas Radwinter’s family history research but he had only investigated his paternal line. I thought I would complete his story by writing about his maternal line… and now I’m writing book seven, and have some ideas for book eight. When I started with Thomas I had no idea how his life would change, and in each book unexpected things happen – unexpected for me as the writer, and more so for Thomas my character!
Here is a link to tell you more about Ann Cleeve’s new book:
… and a link to my Radwinter books: