The Seagull

British thrillers. So good. Who knew? Probably loads of people. I’m a bit behind. I’ve been distracted by all those British crime dramas on Netflix.

Latest read in this popular vein: The Seagull by Ann Cleeves. I’ve never read any of her books before because I actively avoid thrillers, as previously stated. You can often tell which books are genre thrillers by their covers and spines: predominantly black covers, strong fonts, an atmospheric image that fades to more black. It’s a thing.

In the eighth Vera Stanhope book, Vera’s past comes back to haunt her. (There are no actual ghosts. It’s not that kind of thriller). Vera is a very skilled and very frumpy detective who works with a team of people she adores to solve crime. A body turns up, then a second, then a third. The bodies all go back to an old case from the ‘80s involving a posh nightclub called The Seagull. The bodies are all linked to a group of men called the Gang of Four. Her father was one of the gang, before he died. The case is personal enough that it makes Vera a little nostalgic, but not so personal that she’s off the case.

Here’s the great things about Vera. She’s frumpy and has terrible taste in footwear. She’s a little bit grumpy. She’s overweight, lives alone, and is only ever spotted eating ice cream, fish and chips, chocolate digestives and beer. She doesn’t give a crap about her younger and irritating boss, and she’s good to her team. She refused to be bullied, she’s loud when it’s necessary, she recognizes the talents in others, and she couldn’t give a fig what people think about her. She’s also kind and generous when it’s called for.

Here’s what’s great about the male characters. Vera is so good at her job that nothing else really matters, even if on occasion she’s a bit matronizing. They do what she says. They don’t question her skills. She’s almost venerated. They like her as a human person.

If only this was real life! The fact that Vera exists as a character makes me super happy. I almost don’t even care about the plot of the book at all.

PS: How did I not know porkie pies is a saying? As in: stop telling porkie pies. I checked with my only British friend, and she says yes; porkie pies is a thing people say. Amazing.

Ann Cleeves was at Events 15 (More Than a Good Whodunit) and 31 (An Intimate Evening with Ann Cleeves) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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