I’ve read all of the Shetland mystery novels by Ann Cleeves, which feature police detective Jimmy Perez and are the basis for the popular Shetland television series starring Doug Henshall. And we’re working our way through the Veratelevision series, starring Brenda Blethyn as Vera Stanhope, the police detective based in Yorkshire. It’s based on the Vera Stanhope mystery novels by Cleeves.
But I haven’t read the Vera books. I’m starting with a freestanding short story, Frozen.
In the story, Vera stops by a bookshop in the small town of Corbridge, which is not far from the home where she lives on the rather desolate moors. She’s interested in find a book about the
Roman soldiers and women who lived along Hadrian’s Wall. The bookstore building is a former chapel, only recently converted to a retail book shop.
Instead of a book on Hadrian’s Wall, the shop owner is opening up the old baptismal chamber in the floor before the altar area. And in the chamber is a fully clothed skeleton. Vera recognizes the clothes and a leather band around the wrist. And she knows the skeleton belongs to a 14-year-old girl who went missing years before. But what is she doing in the baptismal chamber of the chapel?
The story includes Vera’s familiar colleagues like Holly and Joe, but it’s too short to go beyond a brief appearance for Joe and a slightly less brief appearance for Holly. The focus is Vera pursing the case, with all of the attributes both the television Vera and the print Vera are known for – abruptness, borderline rudeness, a diet that leaves a great deal to be desired, a wardrobe consisting of mostly a scarf and raincoat, and a razor-sharp mind that keeps plugging away until she gets it right.
Frozen is a good introduction to Ann Cleeves’ detective, and it looks like I’ll have a new series to read.
Top photograph: Brenda Blethyn as Vera in the television series.