Ann Cleeves grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs - child care officer, women's refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard - before going back to college and training to be a probation officer.
While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person's not heavily into birds - and Ann isn't - there's not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing.
In 1987 Tim, Ann and their two daughters moved to Northumberland and the north east provides the inspiration for many of her subsequent titles. Although they had to move away for Tim's work, in the autumn of 2006 they finally achieved their ambition of moving back to the North East.
For the National Year of Reading, Ann was made reader-in-residence for three library authorities. It came as a revelation that it was possible to get paid for talking to readers about books! She went on to set up reading groups in prisons as part of the Inside Books project, became Cheltenham Literature Festival's first reader-in-residence and works as associate trainer with the reader development organisation Opening the Book. Now she is reader-in-residence for Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. Her reading passion is crime in translation.
Ann's short film for Border TV, Catching Birds, won a Royal Television Society Award. She has twice been short listed for a CWA Dagger Award - once for her short story The Plater, and the following year for the Dagger in the Library award. In 2006 Ann was the first winner of the prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award of the Crime Writers' Association for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland Quartet. On 18th October 2012 at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, in the glittering surroundings of Grosvenor House, London, Ann was admitted to the Crime Thriller Hall of Fame - alongside such all-time greats as Colin Dexter, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle!
Ann is currently celebrating the publication of 30 books in 30 years. Her books have been translated into twenty languages. She's a bestseller in Scandinavia and Germany. Her novels sell widely and to critical acclaim in the United States. Raven Black was shortlisted for the Martin Beck award for best translated crime novel in Sweden in 2007. It has been adapted for radio in Germany - and in the UK where it was a Radio Times pick of the day when it was first broadcast Radio adaptations of Raven Black and White Nights have both been repeated. Six series of Vera, the ITV adaptation starring Brenda Blethyn, have been broadcast in the UK, and sold worldwide; there have also been three series of Shetland, based on her Shetland novels.
Ann was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Sunderland on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014, in recognition of her outstanding achievements as a crime writer. In February 2016, Ann was delighted to be appointed as a National Libraries Day ambassador for 2016. She found time in her busy schedule because, she said: "Libraries matter. If we believe in equality of opportunity we must fight not just for the buildings but for the range of books inside and the skilled staff who can promote reading in all its forms. Not only do libraries encourage us to be more tolerant and better informed, they contribute enormously to the wealth of the nation."
In the dark days of a Shetland winter, torrential rain triggers a landslide that crosses the main Lerwick-Sumburgh road and sweeps down to the sea.
At the burial of his old friend Magnus Tait, Jimmy Perez watches the flood of mud and peaty water smash through a croft house in its path. Everyone thinks the croft is uninhabited, but in the wreckage he finds the body of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress. In his mind, she shares his Mediterranean ancestry and soon he becomes obsessed with tracing her identity.
Then it emerges that she was already dead before the landslide hit the house. Perez knows he must find out who she was, and how she died.
"Few British writers can boast Cleeves' consummate skill at evoking atmosphere, and the sense of weather and terrain is as crucial to the success of her Shetland novels as the characterisation of Perez, whose Mediterranean ancestry ensures that he is always an outsider in this cloistered community. One of the most memorable entries in the series."
Barry Forshaw, FT
This case was different from anything Vera had ever worked before. Two bodies, connected but not lying together. And nothing made her feel as alive as murder.
Life seems perfect in Valley Farm, a quiet community in Northumberland. 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.
DI Vera Stanhope arrives on the scene, with her detectives Holly and Joe. When they look round the attic of the big house - where Patrick has a flat - she finds the body of a second man. All the two victims have in common is a fascination with moths - catching these beautiful, rare creatures.
The three couples who live in the Valley Farm development have secrets too: Annie and Sam's daughter is due to be released from prison any day; Nigel watches, silently, every day, from his window. As Vera is drawn into the claustrophobic world of this increasingly strange community, she realizes that there may be deadly secrets trapped here.
The Moth Catcher was adapted as episode three of the sixth series of ITV's VERA; it was first published by Pan MacMillan in September 2015. Order it in hardback (ISBN: 978-1-4472-7828-3); in paperback (ISBN: 978-1-4472-7830-6); download the Kindle editionor the audio download, read by Janine Birkett or order the audio edition direct from the publisher.
A group of old university friends leave the bright lights of London and travel to Unst, Shetland's most northerly island, to celebrate the marriage of one of their friends to a Shetlander. It's mid-summer, a time of light nights and unexpected mists. But late on the night of the wedding party, one of them, Eleanor, disappears - apparently into thin air. The following day, Eleanor's friend Polly receives an email. It appears to be a suicide note, saying she'll never be found alive. And then Eleanor's body is discovered, lying in a small loch close to the cliff edge.
Detectives Jimmy Perez and Willow Reeves are dispatched to Unst to investigate. Before she went missing, Eleanor claimed to have seen the ghost of a local child who drowned in the 1920s. Her interest in the ghost had seemed unhealthy - obsessive, even - to her friends: an indication of a troubled mind. But Jimmy and Willow are convinced that there is more to Eleanor's death than they first thought.
Is there a secret that lies behind the myth? One so shocking that someone would kill - many years later - to protect?
Thin Air was shortlisted for the fourth annual Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year
Thin Air was published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on 11th September 2014: order a copy in hardback (ISBN: 978-0-2307-6019-6); in paperback (ISBN: 978-1-4472-0210-3); download the Kindle edition; or order the audio edition direct from the publisher, ISIS Soundings or as an audio download from Amazon
As the snow falls thickly on Newcastle, the shouts and laughter of Christmas revellers break the muffled silence. Detective Joe Ashworth and his daughter Jessie are swept along in the jostling crowd onto the Metro.
But when the train is stopped due to the bad weather, and the other passengers fade into the swirling snow, Jessie notices that an old lady hasn't left the train: Margaret Krukowski has been fatally stabbed as she sat on the crowded train. Nobody, including the policeman himself, sees the stabbing take place. Margaret's murderer is seemingly invisible; her killing motiveless. Why would anyone want to harm this reserved, elegant lady?
Arriving at the scene, DI Vera Stanhope is relieved to have an excuse to escape the holiday festivities. As she stands on the silent, snow-covered station platform, Vera feels a familiar buzz of anticipation, sensing that this will be a complex and unusual case. Soon Vera and Joe are on their way to the south Northumberland town of Mardle, where Margaret lived, to begin their inquiry.
But why are the residents of Harbour Street so reluctant to speak?
DI Vera Stanhope is not one to make friends easily, but her hippy neighbours keep her well-supplied in homebrew and conversation, so she has more tolerance for them than most. When one of them goes missing she feels duty-bound to find out what happened. But her path leads her to more than a missing friend ...
It's an easy job to track the young woman down to the Writers' House, a country retreat where aspiring authors gather to workshop and work through their novels. It gets complicated when a body is discovered and Vera's neighbour is found with a knife in her hand. Calling in the team, Vera knows that she should hand the case over to someone else. She's too close to the main suspect. But the investigation is too tempting and she's never been one to follow the rules. Working with Sergeant Joe Ashworth, she starts the hunt for a murderer who is artistic as well as deadly.
There seems to be no motive. No meaning to the crime. Then another body is found, and Vera suspects that someone is playing games with her. Somewhere there is a killer who has taken murder off the page and is making it real...
The Glass Room was published by Pan MacMillan in hardback on 2nd February 2012, and in paperback on September 13th:
Buy from Amazon: in hardback (ISBN: 978-0-230-74582-7) or paperback (ISBN: 978-0-3305-1270-1).
When the body of journalist Jerry Markham is found in a traditional Shetland boat, outside the house of the Fiscal down at the Marina, young Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted in from the Hebrides to head up the investigation.
Since the death of his fiancée, Inspector Jimmy Perez has been out the loop, but his interest in this new case is stirred and he decides to help the inquiry - for Willow, his local knowledge is invaluable as the close-knit community holds many secrets. Markham - originally a Shetlander but who had made a name for himself in London - had left the islands years before to pursue his burgeoning writing career. In his wake, he left a scandal involving a young girl, Evie Watt, who is now engaged to a crofter. He had few friends there, so why was he back in Shetland?
Willow and Jimmy are soon led to Sullom Voe, the heart of Shetland's North Sea oil and gas industry. In a community where traditional values are held very dear by some, the advent of new energies, even renewables, is not always welcome. It emerges that Markham was chasing a story in his final days. One that must have been - for someone - significant enough to warrant his death...
Dead Water returns to the story of Jimmy Perez after the tragic events of Blue Lightning. It is the first volume of a second Shetland Quartet, and was shortlisted for the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2013.
Dead Water was published in the UK by Pan Macmillan in January 2013; the US edition will be published by St Martins Minotaur on February 18th 2014, and is already available for advance order from Amazon.com.
For Lizzie Bartholomew, a holiday in Morocco will change life forever. But not in the way she had hoped... Lizzie had planned her trip to Marrakech as the perfect escape from her life - and her nightmares - in Northumberland. Abandoned as a baby, and having spent her childhood moving between foster homes, Lizzie certainly has much to escape from. And for Lizzie, Morocco is the exotic paradise that she had imagined. Especially when she finds herself on a bus sitting next to a fellow tourist, who is also travelling to fulfil his dreams.
After a brief affair, Lizzie returns to England. In the days that follow, she is distracted by thoughts of her mysterious lover, hoping against hope that Philip might come and find her. But suddenly she receives a letter from a firm of solicitors. Philip Samson has died. In his will, he has left Lizzie a gift of £15,000. But there are conditions attached to this unexpected legacy, conditions that will alter the course of Lizzie's life forever...
Pan Macmillan have just reissued two standalone mysteries by Ann Cleeves, Burial of Ghosts (order from Amazon; ISBN: 978-1-4472-4130-0) and The Sleeping and the Dead (order from Amazon; ISBN: 978-1-4472-4129-4).
Both of Ann's earlier crime series are now available through Bello, Pan Macmillan's digital and print-on-demand (POD) imprint, established to revive classic and out of print titles as both ebooks and large format paperbacks, with a uniform cover design.
The Inspector Ramsay books follow a series of police investigations in the County of Northumberland, Vera Stanhope's stamping ground - but Stephen Ramsay is an engaging character in his own right.
Ann looks back now at the George and Molly books and sees much that she would have written differently if she had known then what she knows now! But there are things she recognises, too - the strong sense of place, the traditional mystery with a contemporary twist... Readers who want to know more can find purchasing information on Ann's website.
Cold Earth (2016)
Thin Air (2014)
Dead Water (2013)
Blue Lightning (2010)
Red Bones (2009)
White Nights (2008)
Raven Black (2006)
The Moth Catcher (2015)
Harbour Street (2014)
The Glass Room (2012)
Silent Voices (2011)
Hidden Depths (2007)
Telling Tales (2005)
The Crow Trap (1999)
Burial of Ghosts (2003)
The Sleeping and the Dead (2001)
The Inspector Ramsay books:
The Baby Snatcher (1997)
The Healers (1995)
A Day in the Death of Dorothea Cassidy (1992)
Murder in My Backyard (1991)
A Lesson in Dying (1990)
The George and Molly Books:
High Island Blues (1996)
The Mill on the Shore (1994)
Sea Fever (1993)
Another Man's Poison (1992)
A Prey to Murder (1989)
A Bird in the Hand (1986)