It’s Boxing Day, time to solve a major crime with Vera

Boxing Day: Vera (ITV1, 8pm)
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It’s Boxing Day, a time when we all sit back, take stock after 24 hours of over-indulgence and… solve a major crime.

Well, that’s the case this year if you happen to be a big fan of Ann Cleeves’ dogged detective, DCI Vera Stanhope, who’s about to take centre stage in an adaptation of the author’s 10th Vera novel, The Rising Tide.

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Incredibly, considering it’s been running since 2011, this is the programme’s first festive edition.

DC Jaqueline (Jac) Williams, DS Aiden Healy, DCI Vera Stanhope and DC Mark EdwardsDC Jaqueline (Jac) Williams, DS Aiden Healy, DCI Vera Stanhope and DC Mark Edwards
DC Jaqueline (Jac) Williams, DS Aiden Healy, DCI Vera Stanhope and DC Mark Edwards

“I’ve always wanted to have a Vera Christmas special,” claims Brenda Blethyn, who plays her. “This adaptation is set against the backdrop to the run up to Christmas. There are quite a lot of Christmas trees in this film and it was nice to film scenes with all of the festive decorations in the background. There’s always a jolly feeling at Christmas with people in good spirits. But sometimes they had to take a tree out of the background because there was too much going on!

“I think The Rising Tide is one of Ann Cleeves’ best books, and that’s saying something because they’re all fabulous. She just gets better and better. But as is often the case when adapting a novel for TV, there are differences between the book and Sally Abbot’s terrific adaptation.”

So, fans of the original text, you have been warned! The bare bones of the story remain the same, however.

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“Vera and her team are gearing up to having a couple days off over Christmas when a call comes in about a television celebrity who has been found dead on Holy Island in Northumberland of all places, where Vera lives, in what is an unexplained death,” explains Blethyn. “So her boss has decided that as Vera knows the area, she can go and deal with it.

“It turns out the dead man is with a group of friends who first visited Holy Island together in 1977 and have been returning for a reunion every five years since 1982. Vera is intrigued by them and finally concludes that the death is a case of murder.”

It’s a fascinating case but, sadly, it’s the last one Blethyn will work on with Kenny Doughty, who’s bowing out of his role as Vera’s sidekick, DS Aiden Healy.

“I was sad when he said he was leaving,” she says. “He’s my mate. We had filmed eight series together. I’ve never laughed so hard as I did with Kenny Doughty.”

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As for Blethyn’s own festive plans, they are, thank goodness, a lot less dramatic than what her alter ego is getting up to.

“On Christmas Day we will go out walking first thing with the dog, as we do most days no matter the weather,” reveals the actor. “Christmas Day is just about relaxing, watching some television and then wishing it was over!

“And I will certainly be watching The Rising Tide when it goes out. I like to see it as it is broadcast on TV and my husband also likes to watch it with me. He gets annoyed if I tell him anything about it beforehand, so I’ll not say a word!”