If there’s one complaint we’ve always had about Vera, it’s that we never find out much about the woman herself. Perhaps in The Seagull, the last of the current series, something of her past will finally be revealed.
Based on the latest of Ann Cleeves’s Vera Stanhope novels, The Seagull opens with a panicky young woman at the titular club, Whitley Bay’s top nightspot in 1995 (which probably isn’t saying much). In the present, the arson-hit club is being rebuilt when a skeleton is found in a drainage tunnel – Vera suspects it might be Robbie Marshburn, a missing minor gangster. Was club owner and local crimelord Leonard Sidden involved, or his builder son?
Vera’s team seem unsure why she wants to reopen a cold case, but when a suspect, Scott Keane, is found dead, they perk up, particularly as his father-in-law is an imprisoned corrupt cop, John Brace (Mark Wingett, best known as DC Jim Carver from The Bill).
Brace taunts Vera about the death of her father Hector, and Len Sidden (Michael Feast) gives away nothing, but Vera is still convinced there’s a web of corruption going back years.
Vera digs up some family photos dating back to her father’s day – Aiden’s narked that she won’t share, and she finally admits that Hector, Sidden and Brace were mates. Is she beginning to suspect that her dad might have been bent?
She tasks Kenny with investigating, and he comes up with some suspicious-looking payments, but the Siddens’ accountant Claythorpe (Michael McKell) claims they were ‘nothing to worry about’. This hardly sets Vera’s mind at rest.
Things all start to get a bit fuzzy here; Brace had an affair with a girl who worked at the club, Mary, they had a daughter who was given up for adoption, Brace later tracked her down and tried to help her, and Brace’s wife, now a successful businesswoman, is still in with the Siddens – where is all this going, and how does it connect with the two murders?
Vera opens up to Aiden about her concerns, while Donahue finds another skeleton in the drain – it proves not to be Mary, but another club girl, the under-age Rebecca. Was Rebecca a witness to Marshburn’s murder, and had Scott Keane been asking awkward questions about the past events?
By this stage, we were beginning to lose the thread. Other than a conviction that Sidden’s hard-nose wife Elaine (Clare Higgins) was guilty of something, and that Vera’s dad must have been innocent despite the damning evidence, we didn’t really have a clue what was going on.
Finally, phone evidence leads Vera to the village of Morna in Scotland, where she finds Mary, the key to the mystery. When Vera leans on the Siddens, and finds documents linking her father to Morna, it all comes out – underage girls, drug overdoses, and the central part played by accountant Claythorpe, who had killed Marshburn to protect Mary, then Scott Keane to keep his secret.
When Claythorpe turns up at Vera’s, she thinks he’s there to shut her up; but Aiden comes to the rescue before it comes to that. At least Claythorpe reassures Vera that her father was straight.
Vera engineers a meeting between Mary and her daughter, and is left sitting on her dad’s old bench, looking out to sea and lost in thought. She seems to have achieved some sort of closure, and so have we – though this finale dragged endlessly, and the denouement seemed more like a case of picking an ending out of a hat than anything else, at least we did finally find out a little more about Vera.
Her evidential insights in this series have rarely amounted to much more than going through phone records, bank statements and CCTV, so we can’t say we’re that impressed with her detective abilities; but she is becoming a more rounded character, and all the better for it.
FOR OUR EPISODE ONE REVIEW CLICK HERE
FOR OUR EPISODE TWO REVIEW CLICK HERE
FOR OUR EPISODE THREE REVIEW CLICK HERE