The Seagull by Ann Cleeves

"A visit to her local prison brings DI Vera Stanhope face to face with an old enemy: former detective superintendent, and now inmate, John Brace. Brace was convicted of corruption and involvement in the death of a gamekeeper – and Vera played a key part in his downfall. Now, Brace promises Vera information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious wheeler-dealer who disappeared in the mid-nineties, if she will look out for his daughter and grandchildren. He tells her that Marshall is dead, and that his body is buried close to St Mary’s Island in Whitley Bay. However, when a search team investigates, officers find not one skeleton, but two.
This cold case case takes Vera back in time, and very close to home, as Brace and Marshall, along with a mysterious stranger known only as ‘the Prof’, were close friends of Hector, her father. Together, they were the 'Gang of Four’, regulars at a glamorous nightclub called The Seagull. Hector had been one of the last people to see Marshall alive. As the past begins to collide dangerously with the present, Vera confronts her prejudices and unwanted memories to dig out the truth . . ."*
I am a huge fan of the TV show “Vera’. It wasn’t until after I had seen a couple seasons that I finally cracked open one of Ann Cleeves’ books. I mention this because….in my case, whenever I read one of the Vera Stanhope mysteries, I envision the British actress Brenda Blethyn (who portrays Vera) complete in her floppy hat and green trench coat. It’s Blethyn’s lilt that I hear in my head as I read.
In wrapping up the 9th season of Vera, it dawned on me that our library has ALL of Cleeves’ books (this includes the “Shetland” series!). The final episode in the season is entitled “The Seagull”. I held off watching it (it’s on Brit Box-thus I am streaming it/our library also has the DVD’s up to season 8). Instead, I went to the shelves and read the first chapter (of The Seagull) Four chapters later….I realized I was hooked! Thus…I checked our copy out!

Did the TV show follow the book word to word? Of course not. But the premise was the same. Both the book and the TV show had me engaged! I love that the main character , Vera-and the other regular characters in this series (both the books and TV) are realistic/every day people. No super models. No fancy clothes. They don’t drive sports cars. Vera has to watch her weight-yet says “screw it” and stops for an ice cream cone-if you catch my drift. In other words, the characters are…relateable. And the cases Vera and her team have to solve are a satisfying ride.

This was my 4th Vera book I have read. Cleeves is consistent! I have only read the first of the Shetland series-which I also would recommend. But know that you don’t have to read the books to enjoy or understand the TV shows (both Vera & Shetland). The writers only base the episodes on Cleeves books and characters. In Vera’s case, the actor that played DS Joe Ashworth (a prominent main character in the book series) decided not to renew his contract after 16 episodes. The TV show writers decided to have “Joe” transfer and thus…a new DS (Alden Healy) took his place. DS Joe Ashworth is still one of the main characters in the book-which was strange yet comforting (if this makes sense) at the same time. That in itself was a big difference between the book and the TV episode. I enjoyed reading and watching it! My only criticism of the TV show is…the seasons are TOO short (4 episodes)!!! Take your pick!

Sue Nakanishi
Adult Services Librarian & Outreach Coordinator

*The Seagull - Amazon

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