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Vera (DVD Review)

28 Aug, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 8/30/11
$59.99 four-DVD set
Not rated.
Stars Brenda Blethyn, David Leon, Wunmi Mosaku, Paul Ritter, Gina McKee, Hugo Speer, Kerry Fox, John Lynch.

Maybe it’s just their consideration for drama or a holdover from the tradition of “Sherlock Holmes,” but there’s just something about the way the British handle mystery stories that elevates the genre. The newest entrant into the pantheon is “Vera,” based on a series of award-winning novels by Ann Cleeves.

The series isn’t typically structured as a set of 13 or 22 hourlong episodes. There are four episodes in the first season, each a feature-length movie covering one of the Cleeves books (a set-up similar to BBC’s “Sherlock”). These aren’t flashy whodunits with big twists and larger-than-life cases, but human stories that are as much about the people solving the crimes as they are the crimes themselves.

The protagonist is Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn), a Northumberland detective whose obsession with her job makes her adept at solving the murders she investigates. One of the primary themes of the series is the degree to which a life serving the public detracts from the possibility of a private life. Vera’s team includes her right-hand man Joe (David Leon), who worries about spending too much time away from his children and wife, who just had a new baby; and newcomer Holly (Wunmi Mosaku), who constantly seeks Vera’s approval and may be a vision of the woman Vera used to be before becoming a crusty doyenne of public service.

The acting is top notch, and the pacing gives both story and character a chance to breathe, making “Vera” essential viewing for fans of British TV.

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