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Ann Cleeves: A Detailed Guide to the Order of Her Books

If you’re a fan of crime fiction, you’ve probably heard of Ann Cleeves, the bestselling author of several popular series, including Vera, Shetland, and Two Rivers. But with so many books to choose from, where do you start? And what is the best order to read them in? In this blog post, I’ll give you a handy guide to all of Ann Cleeves’ books, so you can enjoy her thrilling stories without missing any important details.

Ann Cleeves has written five main series, each featuring a different protagonist and setting. She also has some standalone novels and short stories that are worth checking out.

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Overview of Ann Cleeves Series

Her notable works include the Shetland Island series featuring Detective Jimmy Perez, the Vera Stanhope series set in Northumberland, the Palmer-Jones series blending mystery with birdwatching, Inspector Ramsay, and the Two Rivers series introducing Detective Matthew Venn.

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This is Ann Cleeves’ first series, featuring elderly naturalist George Palmer-Jones and his wife Molly. They solve mysteries involving birds and wildlife in various locations across England. There are eight books in this series.

  • A Bird in the Hand (1986)
  • Come Death And High Water (1988)
  • Murder In Paradise (1988)
  • A Prey To Murder (1989)
  • Another Man’s Poison (1992)
  • Sea Fever (1993)
  • The Mill On The Shore (1994)
  • High Island Blues (1996)

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Inspector Ramsay

This series follows Inspector Stephen Ramsay, a quiet and methodical detective who works in the fictional town of Otterbridge in Northumberland. He is assisted by his loyal sergeant, Gordon Hunter, and his ambitious colleague, Sally Weller. There are six books in this series, starting with A Lesson In Dying (1990) and ending with The Baby Snatcher (1997). If you prefer traditional police procedurals with a twist, this is a good series to start with.

  • A Lesson in Dying (1990)
  • Murder in My Backyard (1991)
  • A Day in the Death of Dorothea Cassidy (1992)
  • Killjoy (1993)
  • The Healers (1995)
  • The Baby Snatcher (1997)

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Vera Stanhope

his is Ann Cleeves’ most famous series, thanks to the TV adaptation starring Brenda Blethyn as the eccentric and brilliant Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope. Vera works in the Northumbria Police Force, solving complex and often dark cases with her loyal team of detectives. She is also haunted by her past and struggles with her personal life. There are 11 books in this series so far.

  • The Crow Trap (1999)
  • Telling Tales (2005)
  • Hidden Depths (2007)
  • Silent Voices (2011)
  • The Glass Room (2012)
  • Harbour Street (2014)
  • The Moth Catcher (2015)
  • The Seagull (2017)
  • The Darkest Evening (2020)
  • The Rising Tide (2022)
  • A Winter Grave (2023)

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Shetland Island

This series is inspired by Ann Cleeves’ time living in the Shetland Isles, a remote archipelago off the coast of Scotland. It features Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, a native of Fair Isle who returns to his home after a tragedy. He works with his colleagues Sandy Wilson and Willow Reeves to investigate crimes that reveal the secrets and tensions of the close-knit community. There are nine books in this series.

  • Raven Black (2006)
  • White Nights (2008)
  • Red Bones (2009)
  • Blue Lightning (2010)
  • Dead Water (2013)
  • Thin Air (2014)
  • Cold Earth (2016)
  • Too Good To Be True (2016) – This is a novella featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez.
  • Wild Fire (2018)

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Two Rivers

This is Cleeves’ newest series, set in North Devon, where she grew up. It features Detective Matthew Venn, a former member of a strict evangelical community who left his faith and his family behind. He now works in the Two Rivers police force, along with his husband Jonathan, who runs a local community center. He also has to deal with his estranged mother and his former friends who still live by the rules he rejected. There are three books in this series so far, starting with The Long Call (2019) and continuing with The Raging Storm (2023). If you like modern and diverse mysteries that explore social issues, this is a good series to start with.

  • The Long Call (2019)
  • The Heron’s Cry (2021)
  • The Rising Storm (2023)

Stand Alone Novels

In addition to these series, Ann Cleeves has also written some standalone novels and short stories that are worth reading. Some of them are:

  • The Sleeping and the Dead (2001): A standalone novel about a body found in a lake and the secrets it reveals about four people who knew the victim.
  • Too Good To Be True (2016): A novella featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez from the Shetland Island series.
  • Dreaming of Rain and Peter Lovesey (2016): A short story collection co-written with Peter Lovesey, another crime writer.
  • The Starlings & Other Stories (2015): A short story collection written by Ann Cleeves and other members of Murder Squad, a group of crime writers.
  • Shetland (2015): A non-fiction book about the history, culture, and landscape of the Shetland Isles.

As you can see, Ann Cleeves has written a lot of books for you to enjoy. You can read them in any order you like, but I recommend following the chronological order of each series to get the most out of her characters and plots. You can also mix and match between different series if you want some variety. Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll love Ann Cleeves’ books as much as I do.

Portrait of Ann Cleeves

About Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves, born in 1954 in Herefordshire, England, is a distinguished English crime writer. Before embarking on her successful writing career, Cleeves pursued various professions including working as a probation officer, bird observatory cook, and auxiliary coastguard. Her educational journey began with studying English at the University of Sussex, though she did not complete her degree, choosing instead to explore different career paths that eventually led her to write.

Cleeves’ personal life is as rich and interesting as her novels. She was married to Tim Cleeves from 1977 until his sudden passing in 2017, a partnership that lasted four decades. Together, they had two daughters, who have since married and settled in Newcastle, England. The family moved to Northumberland in 1987, a region that has inspired many of Cleeves’ stories. This move was a fulfillment of a long-held dream for Ann and Tim, who had always aspired to settle in the Northeast.

Apart from her literary achievements, Ann Cleeves has been a passionate advocate for libraries, serving as a National Libraries Day Ambassador in 2016. Her advocacy is rooted in a belief in the importance of libraries for promoting reading, tolerance, and information access to all segments of society. Cleeves’ efforts in this arena highlight her commitment not just to the craft of writing but also to the broader mission of fostering a love for reading and supporting public resources that make literature accessible to everyone.

Throughout her life, Cleeves has not only contributed significantly to the genre of crime fiction but has also engaged in various initiatives aimed at promoting reading and literature in the community. Her residence in Whitley Bay, near the setting of her Vera books, ties her even more closely to the landscapes and communities that inspire her work. Ann Cleeves’ life and career are a testament to her multifaceted talents and her deep commitment to both her craft and her community.

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People Also Like

Delving into Ann Cleeves’ books opens a gateway to discovering other authors who master the art of crime fiction with depth and complexity. Here are some recommendations for your reading pleasure:

  1. Tana French – Her psychological insight and compelling narratives in the Dublin Murder Squad series have earned her critical acclaim and a dedicated readership.
  2. Louise Penny – Set in the heart of Quebec, Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series blends intricate mysteries with profound insights into the human condition.
  3. Elly Griffiths – The Ruth Galloway series offers a unique blend of archaeology and mystery, featuring a strong female lead and engrossing plotlines.


What’s the ideal order for reading Ann Cleeves’ series?

To fully appreciate the evolution of characters and unfolding of plots, it’s advisable to read Ann Cleeves’ books in the order they were published within each series. This ensures a deeper engagement with the narrative and character development across the series.

How does the Vera Stanhope series distinguish itself?

The Vera Stanhope series is renowned for its complex protagonist, a detective whose brilliance and idiosyncrasies drive the investigation of intricate mysteries. Set against the starkly beautiful Northumbria landscape, the series not only offers compelling crime-solving but also delves into Vera’s personal struggles, making it a standout in Ann Cleeves’ repertoire.

Have Ann Cleeves’ novels been adapted into any TV series?

Indeed, Ann Cleeves’ literature has successfully transitioned to the screen with adaptations of both her Vera Stanhope and Shetland series. These adaptations have brought the characters and settings of her novels to life, garnering a wide audience and further acclaim for her work.

Hi, my name is Shalini Laghari and I am a self-confessed bookworm. Since I was a young girl I have always found solace in books, surrounded by my favorite characters and fictional worlds.

My love for reading has never faltered (although I have found myself in the middle of a book slump or two over the years!) and my book collection is my pride and joy.

I’ve recently heard that you need 1000 books to consider your collection of books a ‘library’, and I’m only 100-ish away!

My favorite books to read are those with POC, LGBTQ+, and disability representation. I also love reading small and unknown authors and giving them a platform through my reviews.

Enjoy my website, pick your new favorite book to read, and who knows - maybe I’ll see you in our favorite bookstore one day!
Shalini Laghari
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My name is Shalini and I love reading a lot. On this blog I review most of the books I have read. Hope you enjoy.
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