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Ann Cleeves Wins Crime Writers' Top Award

Ann Cleeves, photographed by Micha Theiner

The Crime Writers' Association (CWA) has announced that the CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing, will this year be awarded to Ann Cleeves. The Dagger award recognises authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.

Martin Edwards, Chair of the CWA, said: "Ann Cleeves is internationally renowned as the author of the series on which the very popular TV programmes VERA and Shetland are based. But long before her television success, she worked hard writing hugely enjoyable crime novels and short stories. As well as publishing thirty books, she has been a passionate and effective advocate for libraries, while her generosity towards fellow crime writers as well as readers means that this news is sure to be widely welcomed."

Ann (pictured, right, photographed by Micha Theiner) says: "It's a huge honour to be recognized by my peers, the crime-writers whose books, friendship and support I've enjoyed for more than thirty years. I am privileged to have had such a happy career and I will always be grateful for the support of booksellers and forever indebted to the passion and expertise of librarians, without whom I wouldn't still be writing today."

Ann will be presented with the CWA Diamond Dagger at the CWA's Dagger Awards ceremony in London on 26 October.

Cold Earth

Cold Earth - the US edition

Meanwhile, Ann's latest novel, the seventh in her award winning series of Shetland mysteries, is among the contenders for an award of its own. Cold Earth has been longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize (formerly the Scottish Crime Book of the Year).

Cold Earth is now available in the US, and out in the UK in paperback. It marks not only the continuation of a popular and much-praised series, but also Ann's thirtieth book in 30 years! The story opens as Jimmy Perez attends the burial of his old friend Magnus Tait: but torrential rain triggers a landslide that reveals a totally unexpected body that of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress. Her identity is a mystery Jimmy becomes obsessed with solving: perhaps it can help the dark-haired Fair Islander resolve some mysteries of his own.

Mark Lawson chose Cold Earth as one of his best crime books of the year, and called Ann "the best living evoker of landscape".

"One of the most memorable entries in the series."

Barry Forshaw, FT

Read what Ann told The Sydney Morning Herald about Cold Earth.

TV's Shetland crime drama carried off two Scottish Baftas: when the winners of the 2016 awards were revealed, Shetland took the prize in two of the four categories for which it was in the running. Shetland itself won best television drama, and Douglas Henshall, who plays detective inspector Jimmy Perez, was named best television actor. Director Jan Matthys (best director film/television) and Gaby Chiappe (best writer film/television) were also nominated. Congratulations to all concerned!

Filming has now started on a fourth series of BBC One's acclaimed drama, Shetland, based on the characters and setting on Ann Cleeves's award-winning novels. The announcement confirms that Douglas Henshall will return as DI Jimmy Perez, with Alison O'Donnell and Shetlander Steven Robertson as his fellow-officers, plus Mark Bonnar and Julie Graham alongside new faces, filming on location in Shetland, Glasgow and Norway. This new series is a single original story told in six episodes, in which Perez must deal with murders from the past and present with unsettling similarities.

All about Ann Cleeves' Shetland: the books, the TV series, the place...

Vera, series 7 - the DVD

Ann's TV Double

Award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves has the distinction - among others! - of having inspired not one but two hit crime dramas showing on TV. Her recent trip to the US coincided with all three of the previous series of the BBC's Shetland becoming available on Netflix - and being named by the New York Times as one of their shows of the week! Filming has now started on series 4.

Meanwhile, UK transmission of the seventh series of ITV's VERA, starring multi-award-winning Brenda Blethyn, as Ann Cleeves's unorthodox but brilliant DCI Vera Stanhope, has come to an end - but the series 7 DVD was released on Monday 17th April and is now available to order from Amazon.UK (Region 2 only, initially, so US viewers have longer to wait!).

Vera storms the US

To know Ann Cleeves's brilliant but unglamorous Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope is to love her - and now the US is taking her to its heart! The TV series based on Ann's characters and settings has been widely broadcast (and is available of DVD for anyone who missed it!). VERA was nominated for an Edgar Award, for Dark Road, the first episode of series 6 (an original screenplay by Martha Hillier). The Crow Trap, US edition

It's easier than ever for US readers get to know the original Vera, too, in the seven murder mysteries by Ann Cleeves. Minotaur Books are, for the first time, going back to the beginning of Vera's story, and publishing US editions of her entire backlist at the rate of two books a year: look out for Vera's first appearance, in The Crow Trap, available now (and Telling Tales follows in August).

At the isolated Baikie's Cottage on the North Pennines, three very different women come together to complete an environmental survey. Three women who, in some way or another, know the meaning of betrayal...

For team leader Rachael Lambert the project is the perfect opportunity to rebuild her confidence after a double-betrayal by her lover and boss, Peter Kemp. Botanist Anne Preece, on the other hand, sees it as a chance to indulge in a little deception of her own. And then there is Grace Fulwell, a strange, uncommunicative young woman with plenty of her own secrets to hide...

When Rachael arrives at the cottage, however, she is horrified to discover the body of her friend Bella Furness. Bella, it appears, has committed suicide - a verdict Rachael finds impossible to accept.

Only when the next death occurs does a fourth woman enter the picture - the unconventional Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope, who must piece together the truth from these women's tangled lives...

Read more about The Crow Trap

The Moth Catcher

In the UK, the latest case for Vera Stanhope is The Moth Catcher now available in paperback. Vera's seventh investigation takes her to Valley Farm, a quiet community in Northumberland, where life seems perfect. Then a shocking discovery shatters the silence. The owners of a big country house have employed a house-sitter, a young ecologist named Patrick, to look after the place while they're away. But Patrick is found dead by the side of the lane into the valley - a beautiful, lonely place to die...

"The Moth Catcher is a splendid, solidly plotted modern take on a golden-age "closed circle" mystery, and Vera, as always, is a delight."

Laura Wilson, The Guardian

Read more about this seventh Vera Stanhope book here.

All about Vera, the TV series and the books.

Shetland with a difference!

Too Good to be True

Ann has published two other Shetland books - but with a difference! There's a new mystery featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez from the bestselling Shetland series: but Too Good To Be True is a gripping Quick Read which takes Jimmy Perez away from his home territory, all the way south to the Borders.

When young teacher Anna Blackwell is found dead in her home, the police think her death was suicide or a tragic accident. After all, Stonebridge is a quiet country village in the Scottish Borders, where murders just don't happen.

Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez soon arrives from far-away Shetland when his ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to look into the case. The local gossips are saying that her new husband, Tom, was having an affair with Anna. Could Tom have been involved with her death? Sarah refuses to believe it - but needs proof.

Anna had been a teacher. She must have loved kids. Would she kill herself knowing there was nobody to look after her daughter? She had seemed happier than ever before she died. And to Perez, this suggests not suicide, but murder ...

Too Good To Be True was selected as one of 15 books to be given away, free, on World Book Night, April 23rd 2016. Organisers explained that the diverse line-up, spanning genres of crime, poetry, non-fiction, YA, historical fiction, and fiction in translation, was devised to celebrate "the enrichment that reading and books can bring to people's lives" encouraging those who don't already read for pleasure - an estimated 36% of adults - to get involved. Ann said "It's nice to be a part of this event, specially with the Quick Read Jimmy Perez!"

More about Too Good to be True

Ann Cleeves: Shetland

The other book is something else again - a beautifully illustrated introduction to the Shetland islands. Ann says "If you'd like to know more about the islands where the Shetland TV series is filmed and the books are set, check out my non-fiction book. It's full of wonderful photos and explains why I love the place so much." It's a gloriously illustrated companion to the novels, taking readers through a year on Shetland, learning about its past, meeting its people, celebrating its festivals and seeing how the flora and fauna of the islands changes with the seasons. Whether it is the drama of the Viking fire festival of Up Helly Aa in winter, or the piercing blue and hot pink of spring flowers on the clifftops, the long, white nights of midsummer or the fierce gales and high tides of autumn, Shetland is vividly captured in all its bleak and special beauty.

You can see an extract from the book on the publishers' website.

Shetland was published by Pan Macmillan on 22nd October 2015; it is available for from Amazon in hardback (ISBN: 978-1-5098-0979-0) or for Kindle.

In the Press

Ann talked to The Independent about where she found the initial ideas for The Moth Catcher - and what crime novels she enjoys - and doesn't enjoy! - reading. Meanwhile, in The Guardian she offers a short guide to Vera's Northumberland: read what she has to say about Amble, and compare her descriptions of Mardle, the setting for Harbour Street!

"I do love Vera!"

Val McDermid

Other Books

The Starlings and Other Stories Bello reissues: the Inspector Ramsay books Burial of Ghosts The Sleeping and the Dead

Ann Cleeves says "Good short stories have a force and a clarity which it's almost impossible to achieve in a novel. That's why I enjoy reading them. I know that each word has been chosen with care.

"I don't send post cards when I travel; I write stories instead. The three pieces in the CWA anthologies bring back vivid memories of Tanzania, Finland and Alaska. Raven Black was originally conceived as another of those holiday snap stories."

In The Starlings and Other Stories, Ann has edited a collection of twelve short stories which are literally, if not snapshots, at least inspired by photographs. She has invited each of her fellow members of Murder Squad to bring in an accomplice, and write a short story inspired by the dramatic photography of Pembrokeshire-based author David Wilson. Ann's own contribution is the title story, The Starlings, featuring DI Vera Stanhope.

Read more about The Starlings and other short stories by Ann Cleeves.

Pan MacMillan's Bello imprint hunts down lost classics, and uses modern digital technology to make them available to readers as eBooks or print-on-demand paperbacks: over the summer they have quietly been releasing two previous series of detective novels by Ann Cleeves. The 'Inspector Ramsay' books feature a police officer who is like Ann's (and TV's) Vera Stanhope in being based in England's northernmost county, Northumberland - though unlike her in many other ways. Looking even further back, to the work of a very young writer, you can also now read the George & Molly books, the adventures of amateur sleuth George Palmer-Jones, an elderly birdwatcher - and his wife, Molly. (Or you might want to read what Ann would like to say to that younger self).

Two standalone novels are back in the bookshops in new paperback editions: The Sleeping and the Dead is a vivid psychological suspense novel the discovery of a body in the lake forces prison officer Hannah Morton to confront her past self; in Burial of Ghosts a holiday romance changes Lizzie's life forever.

In true Agatha Christie style, Cleeves once again pulls the wool over our eyes with cunning and conviction

Colin Dexter

A most satisfying mystery set in an isolated and intriguing location

Peter Robinson

Member, the Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame 2012

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Last update: 25th June 2017.