Vera is one of the newer DCI’s on the UK block. Set in Northumberland, the most sparsely populated county in England, it still manages to produce a murder or 3 every 1.5 hours or so. And the show captures well both the land and the people.
What really sells these stories is Vera herself, who is best described as a tough broad who knows when to put on gloves… well, most of the time. She isn’t the greatest detective, but she is passionate. In many ways, she is the descendent of Jane Tennyson. But unlike our Prime Suspect heroine who always kept it together in front of the troops, unless she was attacking them, Vera allows self-doubt, frustration, and anger to explode in the office and even onto her staff. She is exceedingly human and more than a little manipulative. Played by the well-heeled Brenda Blethyn (Little Voice), she is completely engaging through it all.
There is a rich set of stories in her support staff, though we don’t get as much of them and their travails as I’d have liked in this first series… but perhaps there will be more in the second. The mysteries are relatively twisty, but they are also a little unfair… the denouement always including information that is held back. This isn’t an unusual tactic, but it seems unnecessary in these stories. The interesting part is getting there.
You may struggle with the accents, they are heavily northern. And there is more than a little bit of slang in there as well. But Vera offers a very different venue than many other series, and with it a new flavor. And, unlike Wallander, it has a bit more heart and hope thrown in to keep it from being crushingly bleak like the landscape that surrounds it.