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"Vera" - British TV Series and Novels by Ann Cleeves

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I have long been a fan of the British TV series titled "Vera," which stars Brenda Blethyn as the eponymous Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope of the fictional Northumberland & City Police.  I am able to watch it here in the states through the Britbox channel on Amazon Prime.  Twelve seasons have been aired so far, with a typical 4 episodes in each season (Season 11 was the exception with 6).

Out of curiosity, noting that the credits mentioned that the show was based on characters created by novelist Ann Cleeves in a series of Vera Stanhope books, I tracked down the first book in that series, entitled "The Crow Trap."  It's long -- over 600 pages -- and uses a Rashomon-like approach in which the same time frames are separately narrated by multiple characters.  It takes some concentration and focus to keep details straight, which isn't helped by the fact that characters have confusingly similar last names (i.e., Fulwell and Furness).

The Vera that emerges from the written novel is different from the one seen on television.  Now, I should qualify that by noting that this comparison is between the first novel and recent episodes that have been evolving over more than a decade.  But the Vera that emerges in this novel is not as likeable, and not as surefooted, as the TV counterpart.  

Evidently this first novel was adapted to appear in the first season of Vera.  I don't think my Britbox subscription lets me look back that far without paying extra, so I probably can't compare that early version of Vera to the book.  

In any event, I can warmly recommend the TV series -- the stories are filled with twists and turns as the investigators peel back a prodigious number of onion layers that reveal many surprising hidden connections.  At the same time, one thing I can definitely say about the book is that the solution to "whodunit" in 'The Crow Trap" was an absolute surprise.  My only real complaint is having to slog through more than 600 pages to get there . . . it's not the kind of casual read that a typical Poirot or Marple would be.  




UPDATE:  I discovered that BritBox lets me access Season 1 after all (though not all earlier seasons are available).  I have started watching the TV version of "The Crow Trap" and it is clear (and quite understandable) that the story has been greatly trimmed down to fit the TV frame.  The book starts out with a suicide; the TV version has this person murdered.  The book has three people living temporarily in a remote cottage; the TV version has only one person.  And there are other changes.  Now I'm curious how they have refashioned the book story.




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You're kidding, of course.  How could she be less likeable in the books?  She's about as unlikeable as a TV lead character as one can imagine.

I watched the first few seasons a while ago, so long ago, actually, that I can't remember where, but think it was PBS.   She wasn't what anyone could call and warm and fuzzy character.



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It's been a while since I tried to watch "Vera" but she kept putting me off because she was/is so unlikable.  I felt most sorry for her sergeant, whose family life was constantly being thrown under the bus by Vera's incessant need for hand-holding.

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10 hours ago, Merkin said:

It's been a while since I tried to watch "Vera" but she kept putting me off because she was/is so unlikable.  I felt most sorry for her sergeant, whose family life was constantly being thrown under the bus by Vera's incessant need for hand-holding.

All I can say is, if you think Vera has rough edges on the TV version, you should see how she comes across in the novels.  

She also is shown carrying out a number of 'save the cat' moments in the later TV episodes, where she does something thoughtful for a crime victim or someone who was collateral damage from the events in the story.  I didn't notice any of that in the first novel I read, but obviously can't speak to whether that happened in later ones.

I think it's likely that the TV producers had Vera's character mellow out a bit as time passed, no doubt because of this same audience reaction to her.  



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In the most recent series a couple of stories have had her doing good things for the victims, after the crime has been solved.

I agree with what has been said about how she treats her underlings.

Also, in this day and age, I really can't see any police inspector referring to a suspect as 'duck' or 'love' while questioning them.

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The funny thing is, in at least a couple of places in the first novel (the only one I have read), people confront Vera to ask how she can get away with being so rude and abrupt.  Her response is, "Because I get results."  That seems to be the entire answer.

I think one reason the Vera TV show is engaging is because of the intricate chain of following leads and finding hidden connection that unfolds in each episode.  It is very reminiscent of the classic "Law and Order" TV series in the US, where Briscoe and Logan would keep uncovering new secrets, with each interview and bit of research leading to something new.  


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