On DVD: 
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

DCI Vera Stanhope doesn’t quite have her personal life together. She has alienated herself from the people she knows, she can be obsessed and mean spirited at times, and her drive to solve cases puts even her own health and well being on the backburner. Along with her team: Sergeant Joe Ashworth, DC Holly Lawson, and Forensic Pathologist Billy Cartwright, Vera will sift through the most gruesome of crimes to find the truth. Based on the best selling mystery novels by Ann Cleeves, you get all four mysteries thrown together in this set on four discs.

The first disc holds the mystery Hidden Depths. When a boy is found murdered in a bathtub with ceremonial flowers surrounding his body, Vera and her team try to find reason. The case surely but slowly reveals a much broader picture and a wider selection of suspects, from bird watchers to the Father of one of the murdered boy's friends. Try as I might, this episode just didn’t do it for me, at first. It just seemed like your given DCI Vera Stanhope to analyze but nothing is revealed about her character. In a first impression I want to know as much as I can about a shows star: What’s their motivation, if they have issues what do they stem from, how are they vulnerable and how do they fit with the rest of the cast? There’s just so little revealed about Vera that, for me, it took away from the actual murder mystery aspect of the show. I had to draw my own conclusions and just wait. I completely wrote the first episode off as somewhat of a bore, at first.

Disc two contains the mystery Telling Tales. A prisoner escapes from transport and confronts her Father at his home, only to be turned away heartbroken, the prisoner jumps in front of a bus and dies. When Vera and her crew investigate a surprising twist is revealed. The prisoner, who had been charged with murder, might have been innocent and their innocence may have been covered up by a conspiracy from up high to down low. My first impression of the character of Vera is quickly altered as this episode rolls out. There’s something more to the old girl then on first sight and it has a lot to do with how young her team is. Interesting.

Disc three contains the mystery The Crow Trap. After the murder of a familiar face Vera starts looking into the case a bit more. Left behind are the victims step son, an older man whose been cross with his Father for some time, and her Husband, a bed ridden stroke victim who owns the property surrounding his home for miles on end, and whose been propositioned by a seedy real estate magnate. Among the suspects is a surveyor and a woman who still holds a grudge against Vera and the police for never finding her missing child and who roams said property like a ghost. First off this was an amazing mystery. I truly loved how it all unraveled. All of them are good but this one was my second favorite of the series. Not only is it a decent mystery but Vera is fleshed out more. This is a bit more back story for Vera, who knew the victim and her family as they live nearby the land her Father left her when he died, where she now resides.

Finally we have Little Lazarus. Maybe the best episode in the collection. When a woman is murdered and her little boy is found under the surface of a small creek, drowned and brought back to life by Vera Stanhope, an investigation leads Vera and her team to some brutal truths. This time the mystery really is somewhat a conspiracy from the very high to the lowest of the lows. Caught in the middle of all this is the young boy whose entire life has been made up of running and hiding. This is absolutely Vera’s most revealing episode as all the walls of purposeful alienation come tumbling down to reveal how vulnerable she really is. Sadly it looks as if these four episodes make up the entirety of Ann Cleeves DCI Vera Stanhope collection so it may be sometime before we see what happens to her after this episode.

What I really found amazing about this show is that it has some great mysteries, but when all is said and done the show really is about Vera. That first episode that I found a bit boring is quickly redeemed once the series has run its course and I discovered that Vera is at times a Mother figure to her team: There for them in really hard times protecting or simply offering some sort of disjointed comfort, someone both of them look to for approval in and out of the office, and someone they grow to care about beyond a professional stand point. It’s amazing to see how she effects her team and how they slowly but surely start to take on her demeanor, as if she has been raising them instead of simply acting as their boss. Though its never really said weather or not Vera ever had a family of her own; Husband and children, you can see that she somewhat accepts this role as Mother figure and it gives credibility to her character and to the shows chemistry. In the end though you start to realize that while the show has its stories, it really acts as a universe that is expanding with Vera at the heart of it and it’s mysteries are simply highlights to better understand the main character. Very ingenious.

AJ Garcia
Review by AJ Garcia
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