I know some of this is going over ground I’ve written about before, but my relationship with the work of Ann Cleeves, and the TV dramas inspired by it is an ongoing experience.
My introduction to Cleeves was through the Shetland TV series. After seeing her name on the opening credits I decided to look for her books.
The first ones I found weren’t related to Shetland, but were from her other well-known series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope.
A book shop in Wagga Wagga had a full set of the Vera titles selling for half price, so I bought The Crow Trap, the first in the series.
I read the book quite quickly and enjoyed it enough to regret not buying copies of the others I’d seen in the Wagga shop.
Somehow I managed to justify another 3 hour round trip, during which I was able to buy the remaining half-price Vera books. Unfortunately they had none of the Shetland series.
The saleswoman told me hadn’t read the books but she’d seen and loved the TV shows inspired by them, so I didn’t hesitate to buy a DVD box set of the series when I found one at a significantly reduced price only a week later.
I was disappointed with the first episode. It showed a lot of promise, but I found the ending unconvincing, confusing and rushing to a conclusion that didn’t live up to the preceding hour or so, or to the quality of Cleeves’ writing I’d read to that point. (At that stage I hadn’t read Hidden Depths, the book that particular episode was based upon, so couldn’t compare the TV adaptation with the book).
The next two episodes were based on Telling Tales and The Crow Trap, both of which I’d read prior to watching the DVDs – and again I found them disappointing. In these cases I found the stories had been cut and changed too much, and I felt there was only a slight resemblance to the books.
Things improved significantly when I got to the fourth and last episode of the first series. It had an original story instead of one supposedly adapted from a Cleeves’ book. I found that story gave a different Vera experience all together – the same character, brilliantly played by Brenda Blethyn, but with a much more convincing and satisfying story.
So far I’ve experienced three different Veras.
The first and by far the better of the three is the original, the Ann Cleeves book version.
The second was the disappointing TV version from the stories (very loosely) adapted from Ann Cleeves’ stories.
The third, and my second favourite, almost equal to the written version, has been the Vera of the TV episodes with original stories based on Ann Cleeves’ characters but not her novels.