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on 6 August 2007
Twelve-year-old Luke Armstrong is a troubled boy, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. His only friend, Thomas, drowned several months ago despite Luke's best efforts to save him. So when Luke's mother discovers her son dead in the bath, her first reaction is suicide. But there are flowers strewn in the bath, floating on the water, and the police quickly establish that he was murdered. Surely he couldn't have been murdered at home with his fourteen-year-old sister sleeping in the next room?

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope is assigned the case. Because Vera is plain, overweight, middle-aged and drinks to a little too much, it's very easy for people to underestimate her. Just because people dismiss her a plodding lump doesn't mean that she doesn't have a keen mind.

The case takes on a new urgency when another body, that of Lily, a young student teacher, is found floating in a rock pool at the beach, her body posed in the same way as Luke's.

Vera's attention turns to the group who found Lily,four men who share a keen interest in bird-watching. All deny knowing Lily and the other victim, Luke, but are they telling the truth? Vera becomes convinced that the solution lies somewhere in their lives, but where? And what is the connection between the two victims? Indeed, is there one at all, or have they been chosen at random?

The author, Ann Cleeves has a gift for setting. Her previous novel, RAVEN BLACK, set in the Shetland Islands, evoked a very strong sense of place. Likewise, HIDDEN DEPTHS is very clearly a novel of North-East England: there's something in Vera's outlook on life and her persona that I can't quite pin down

HIDDEN DEPTHS is the third in the Vera Stanhope series and was my first encounter with her. I had read several chapters before I realised that I hardly knew anything about her. I thought perhaps this was going to be a book where the detective was merely a device to access the mystery. However Vera's character and life are slowly revealed through her thoughts and feelings. It's a very clever way of doing it and for me, heightened my interest. By the time I'd finished the book I felt I knew Vera quite well.

Ann Cleeves has two successful series under her belt: George and Mary-Palmer Jones, amateur sleuths and bird-watchers; and the Inspector Ramsay series. Not content with that, RAVEN BLACK was the first in a planned quartet of books based in the Shetland Islands and of course, there is the Vera Stanhope series. There are also a number of standalone novels to her name.

For readers like me who are unashamed fans of Cleeves' writing, there is plenty to choose from. If you are a reader of crime fiction and you
haven't yet met any of Ann Cleeves' characters, then you are in for a treat.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 August 2014
I've arrived late at the Stanhope party, but there's no harm in that. Even out of sequence, each book stands out as a crime thriller. Someone dies, an investigation follows and the reader becomes embroiled in a small slice of Newcastle life. I just love everything about this series. Stanhope is unconventional in almost every way, but she's also warm and fallible. Anne Cleeves allows the reader to see what's going on in Vera Stanhope's mind and we are privy to her vulnerability.

As a character, she's fascinating. She has insight and frailty; uncommon attributes in a Senior Police officer. Her working practices are sometimes old fashioned, but she remains plausible. The relationship with her team is a moveable feast, but she clearly has their respect despite her flaws and foibles.

In short, this was a compelling read. A murder, an introspective group of friends, secrets, guilt and lies. A great sense of place and time and a cast of characters to keep you guessing. I thought I had the culprit sussed quickly. Wrong!

Just read and enjoy if you like intelligent murder mystery with a strong female lead.
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on 3 February 2007
Hidden Depths is an engrossing murder mystery that keeps you guessing right up to the last chapter. It's beautifully written and Ann Cleeves really conjures up the atmosphere, close-knit communities and landscape of the north east of England, where the action takes place. Detective Vera Stanhope is not your typical copper and her complex character has lots of northern humour and humanity but also plenty of inner demons. She has to unravel the motives and find out what, if anything, links the bizarre murders of a beautiful teenage boy and a young woman teacher with a mysterious past. Their bodies are both found submerged in water and strewn with flowers and suspicion falls on a group of close friends. The psychology of the characters is probed in turn and there are plenty of red herrings along the way before a cracking finale. This is a very skilful, literate and hugely enjoyable book.
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Although I watch ‘Vera’ on the TV this is the first time that I have read one of the books, I believe that this story was an episode in the first series. It starts with a teenage boy being found in the bath, flowers floating on the water, and what looks like a suicide, but it soon becomes apparent that he was killed before being put into the bath. Thus Vera and her team are on the track of a murderer. But when a young woman is found dead in similar circumstances in a public location it looks like things could get quite complex.

As Vera and her team start sifting through any evidence and trying to find links between the two dead people suspicions start to fall especially on four males, a group of friends. But could any of them be the killer? Ann Cleeves gives us good descriptions of the area as well as well portrayed characters that really help to bring this story to life, an extra dimension to the story if you like, thus making this more memorable.

With red herrings, mentally scarred and damaged characters this is a very well written mystery, and I will definitely be reading more of her books.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 October 2013
I have been reading the Vera Stanhope books in order and have not been disappointed. They just seem to get better. Vera is such an unusual character, it's refreshing to find a detective who is not at all your usual stereotypical woman in a position of authority. The story is, as usual very well told and keeps the reader guessing until the last few pages. If you haven't read any of the Vera Stanhope books I'd advise you to start at the beginning of the series to get the most out of them (although in saying that the books can all be read as stand alone books too).
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Having enjoyed Ann Cleeves's Shetland Quartet, I was keen to sample more of her detective writing, and although not quite in the same league as the Shetland Quartet, I wasn't disappointed with this one. Set in the north-east of England, the story begins with a mother returning home from a night out with an old school friend to find her teenage son strangled in the bath, with flowers floating on the water. Not long afterwards, another body is found, this time on the coast, but once again in water, surrounded by flowers. There is no apparent connection between the two victims, but in spite of this, the manner of the killings convinces Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope that they are related to one another and that in finding the connection the murderer will be found. This is a twisty tale, with red herrings aplenty and a web of complex relationships to take in. Ann Cleeves is good at giving the reader well-developed characters to deal with rather than the two dimensional ones that so often spoil crime fiction of this type. Vera Stanhope is an unusual detective, often under-estimated, but very sharp with pain of her own. The writing evokes the North East well, both the rugged countryside and coast, and the urban areas, and Ann Cleeves writes very well, pacing her story-telling to reveal things at just the right rate, and keeping the reader guessing until the end. I found the final outcome slightly unlikely (but then they often are in detective stories I think), but this didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. I'll definitely be reading the other Vera Stanhope books before too long.
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on 13 May 2013
Very intriguing read could not put it down
Will read more from this author she keeps you interested all the way through
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on 31 January 2007
After winning the dagger award for her last book the author returns to Northumberland with her detective Vera Stanhope. The opening chapter entices you into the story and the twist at the end is good. The characters are believable and the artistic touches surrounding the deaths are very visual. On the whole I think I enjoyed this book more than Raven Black so keep up the good work. Catch Ann while she is still on the boil!
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on 27 August 2014
Set in the North East of England, this is a lovely guide to the region as it features quite a few known and lesser known landmarks and takes us right up the coast and even to Northumberland with a dabbling in the academic world with Newcastle University and Morpeth library mentioned.

What’s it all about?

The discovery of a young man’s body in a bathtub is something that starts a nightmare for Vera. This is a highly stylized murder and is very strange indeed. His mum Julie discovers him –

Julie stared at him, submerged beneath the bath water, his hair rising like fronds of seaweed towards the surface. She couldn’t see his body because of the flowers.

When a second body is discovered in a similar way in a rock pool at the coast,Vera is keen to find a link between the two murders. Not to mention to explore the group of friends who have discovered the second body. There’s something not quite right about them..

So what does Vera do? Gets straight on the case and starts to investigate taking herself all around the region in the meantime.

The region really is well drawn and evoked here and is particularly enhanced by Ann’s obvious love and care of the Northumberland coast line. We go to Whitely Bay, Seaton Sluice, up the coast to Morpeth, back to Newcastle and of course North Shields. Quite a guide and a good story to boot.
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Large, loud and brash, DCI Vera Stanhope again dominates - assisted by DS Joe Ashworth, he with "more tact in his little finger than she had in her whole body".

A troubled youth is found dead in his bath, flowers strewn over his body. Suicide? Murder! Another to come. With so many similarities, there must be a link. Cue for much delving into the minds of key characters, the ferreting out of secrets including several affairs.

Can bird watchers here have a part to play? Vera has jabbing memories of her unlamented dead father, he an unrepentant stealer of rare eggs. Much about her is movingly revealed. This work is her life. No way is there hope of a loved one and children, hers a home where only alcohol awaits. No wonder she is happy to work well into the night.

The pace is far brisker in this third book, some perhaps feeling the novel is all the better for it. Whilst enjoying the other two, I certainly found this one more satisfying - probably because, for once, I got the killer right - quite early on, when a certain reference was made.

Recommended,

[One moment of perhaps unintentional wry humour. A character declares, "Whoever heard of a university lecturer as a murderer?" Over to you, Morse and Lewis!]
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