Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn as DI Vera Stanhope, kicked off this evening with an adaptation of Hidden Depths. It was an interesting choice of story, because the first Vera book Ann Cleeves wrote was The Crow Trap. However, my own feeling when it came out originally was that Hidden Depths was a very strong novel, with an especially gripping opening, and this may partly explain the choice. In any event, if you haven't read them yet, the books can be read out of sequence without any difficulty or major spoilers at all.
Brenda Blethyn makes a very likeable, if at times surprisingly emotional, Vera, and the cast included Murray Head - whom I think of more as a singer, but who was excellent in his role as a catalyst for crime - and Juliet Aubrey, who played his glamorous wife. The North East locations were terrific, as good in their way as the Oxford settings in Inspector Morse. The finale was a touch melodramatic, but that is the way with television dramas, and its setting, in a spooky ruined castle, was very atmospheric.
Having followed Ann's career for so long, it was a great pleasure for me to see her work on the telly at last, so I don't suppose I am the most objective judge, but suffice to say that I thought this was a really enjoyable programme.
The timing of the show is, I think, marvellous, in that we've had a bank holiday week-end, and there is a feelgood factor around in many quarters after the Royal Wedding. I've read that the BBC have ditched Zen because there are 'too many male TV detectives'. Silly reasoning, in my opinion, but at least Vera is an original and refreshing character, as well as (much less important, I think) a woman.
One final point. I've encouraged Ann to contribute some copies of the scripts and materials to the CWA archives. At some date in the future, I hope we will have a fascinating record of the genesis of what I confidently expect to be a long running and very successful series.