Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review: Harbour Street (Vera Stanhope #6) by Ann Cleeves

  • Series: Vera Stanhope
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (December 1, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 125007066X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250070661

Book Description

 Harbour Street is the sixth book in Ann Cleeves' crime novel series VERA - which is a major TV detective drama starring Brenda Blethyn on ITV. As the snow falls thickly on Newcastle, the shouts and laughter of Christmas revellers break the muffled silence. Detective Joe Ashworth and his daughter Jessie are swept along in the jostling crowd onto the Metro. But when the train is stopped due to the bad weather, and the other passengers fade into the swirling snow, Jessie notices that an old lady hasn't left the train: Margaret Krukowski has been fatally stabbed as she sat on the crowded train. Nobody, including the policeman himself, sees the stabbing take place. Margaret's murderer is seemingly invisible; her killing motiveless. Why would anyone want to harm this reserved, elegant lady? Arriving at the scene, DI Vera Stanhope is relieved to have an excuse to escape the holiday festivities. As she standing on the silent, snow-covered station platform, Vera feels a familiar buzz of anticipation, sensing that this will be a complex and unusual case. Soon Vera and Joe are on their way to the south Northumberland town of Mardle, where Margaret lived, to begin their inquiry. Then, just days later, a second woman is murdered. Vera knows that to find the key to this new killing she needs to understand what had been troubling Margaret so deeply before she died - before another life is lost. She can feel in her bones that there's a link. Retracing Margaret's final steps, Vera finds herself searching deep into the hidden past of this seemingly innocent neighbourhood, led by clues that keep revolving around one street...Why are the residents of Harbour Street so reluctant to speak? Told with piercing prose and a forensic eye, Ann Cleeves' gripping new novel explores what happens when a community closes ranks to protect their own - and at what point silent witnesses become complicit. Also available in the Vera Stanhope series are The Crow Trap, Telling Tales, Hidden Depths, Silent Voices and The Glass Room. Ann Cleeves' Shetland series (BBC television drama SHETLAND) contains five titles, of which Dead Water is the most recent.

About the Author

 Ann is the author of the books behind ITV's VERA, now in it's third series, and the BBC's SHETLAND, which will be aired in December 2012. Ann's DI Vera Stanhope series of books is set in Northumberland and features the well loved detective along with her partner Joe Ashworth. Ann's Shetland series bring us DI Jimmy Perez, investigating in the mysterious, dark, and beautiful Shetland Islands...

Ann grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs - child care officer, women's refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard - before going back to college and training to be a probation officer.

While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person's not heavily into birds - and Ann isn't - there's not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing. Her first series of crime novels features the elderly naturalist, George Palmer-Jones. A couple of these books are seriously dreadful.

In 1987 Tim, Ann and their two daughters moved to Northumberland and the north east provides the inspiration for many of her subsequent titles. The girls have both taken up with Geordie lads. In the autumn of 2006, Ann and Tim finally achieved their ambition of moving back to the North East.

For the National Year of Reading, Ann was made reader-in-residence for three library authorities. It came as a revelation that it was possible to get paid for talking to readers about books! She went on to set up reading groups in prisons as part of the Inside Books project, became Cheltenham Literature Festival's first reader-in-residence and still enjoys working with libraries.
Ann Cleeves on stage at the Duncan Lawrie Dagger awards ceremony

Ann's short film for Border TV, Catching Birds, won a Royal Television Society Award. She has twice been short listed for a CWA Dagger Award - once for her short story The Plater, and the following year for the Dagger in the Library award.

In 2006 Ann Cleeves was the first winner of the prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award of the Crime Writers' Association for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland Quartet. The Duncan Lawrie Dagger replaces the CWA's Gold Dagger award, and the winner receives £20,000, making it the world's largest award for crime fiction.

Ann's success was announced at the 2006 Dagger Awards ceremony at the Waldorf Hilton, in London's Aldwych, on Thursday 29 June 2006. She said: "I have never won anything before in my life, so it was a complete shock - but lovely of course.. The evening was relatively relaxing because I'd lost my voice and knew that even if the unexpected happened there was physically no way I could utter a word. So I wouldn't have to give a speech. My editor was deputed to do it!"

The judging panel consisted of Geoff Bradley (non-voting Chair), Lyn Brown MP (a committee member on the London Libraries service), Frances Gray (an academic who writes about and teaches courses on modern crime fiction), Heather O'Donoghue (academic, linguist, crime fiction reviewer for The Times Literary Supplement, and keen reader of all crime fiction) and Barry Forshaw (reviewer and editor of Crime Time magazine).

Ann's books have been translated into sixteen languages. She's a bestseller in Scandinavia and Germany. Her novels sell widely and to critical acclaim in the United States.

My Review

 Wow! I am so excited that I have discovered the Vera Stanhope series by author Ann Cleeves. Harbour Street is the sixth book in the series. I need to go back and read the first five!

Vera is a middle-aged larger woman...somewhat of a mess...but very smart and intuitive. I really enjoyed the character of Vera as well as the detectives on her team. The supporting characters were also very well written.

Ann Cleeves can spin a great tale. I had a hard time putting down Harbour Street. I didn't know how much I was dying to read a great English police procedural. How refreshing!

Margaret Krukowski is fatally stabbed on a commuter train. Detective Joe Ashworth who is a member of Vera's team is on the train with his daughter. His daughter is the one who notices that Margaret is not moving.  Margaret's murder sets off a series of events that brings Vera and her team into the lives of everyone on Harbour Street. 

Cleeves captures the dark mood and cold dampness of Northern England. It is set just before Christmas so this was the perfect time to read it! I understand that this series has been made into an English television series. I am going to have to get a hold of some episodes!

There are lots of wonderful twists in this tale. I love how Cleeves keeps peeling back layers and you learn more and more about the characters. I was completely surprised by the ending! Great story!

Highly recommend Harbour Street. I am looking forward to the next book in the series!

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