The success of the first ITV series of Vera has prompted the powers-that-be in television land to commission more shows, which will be appearing on our screens before long. The only snag is that, until now, there have only been four novels about DI Vera Stanhope, so there is a strong demand for more material. And now Ann Cleeves has obliged with a fifth Vera book, The Glass Room.
I’m pleased to report that the latest novel is as smoothly written and entertaining as anything Ann has ever produced. It’s her 25th novel, in fact, but she shows no sign of drifting into complacency as a result of success. I’d rank this as one of the best books she’s written.
To some extent, this judgment may be influenced by the fact that the novel is about writers and writing, subjects very dear to my heart, and the story-line is in some ways closer to the traditional whodunit than some of Ann’s other books – a conscious decision on her part, I suspect, and one that has paid off. As usual, she shifts viewpoint regularly, but not in a way that is distracting. In fact, her mastery of technique, developed over more than two decades, would be worthy of study by anyone starting out as a writer of popular fiction.
The eponymous “glass room” is a first floor conservatory in a place called The Writers’ House, where a group of would-be writers are receiving guidance from literary experts. And then one of those experts is found stabbed in the glass room. The prime suspect just happens to be Vera’s neighbour and friend, but Vera fixes things so that she can still lead the investigation. The plot thickens from there, with information cunningly doled out in small, teasing snippets to keep one glued to the page. The result is an excellent balance of puzzle, character and setting that makes for first rate entertainment.