I took a little break from the extremely long Count of Monte Cristo to do some not-very-draining crime reading. I first heard about Ann Cleeves on Radio 4’s Open Book discussing crime novels in unusual settings. Her novels are set in Shetland which is slightly bizarre as it is a largely crime-free location, I remember one of the times I was there one of the big news stories was somebody’s gnome being stolen. In fact according to Cleeves’ website Raven Black was initially intended as a standalone novel due to the implausibility of serial murders in Shetland, but the book was so successful, that she wrote another three Shetland books. In fact there is a new BBC drama with Douglas Henshaw which will be aired this month, although for some strange reason they are starting with the third book, which I haven’t yet read as had to dump it out of my overweight suitcase on the way back to Spain.
Raven Black introduces the police officer Jimmy Perez a native of Fair Isle (despite the name), he is called to investigate the murder of a young English girl found in a snowy field. The locals all presume that the culprit is the lonely old man with learning difficulties who has been implicated in the previous disappearance of a young girl. White Nights is set during the summer where it stays light all day long, Perez is investigating the mysterious death of an English visitor to the islands who is found hanging in a barn, which leads to a chain of other murders.
I have visited the Shetland Islands a number of times since my friend Vicki moved there and they are lovely. although admittedly a little bleak, the books are fantastic as they really give you a sense of the place. There is also great characterisation too which is also rare in a crime novel. The only flaw was the slightly disappointing reveal of whodunnit in both books, but don’t let this put you off they are still great. If you are interested Cleeves has also written a short story, The Soothmoothers which also features Jimmy Perez, which you can find on her website. Am now off to read Death on a Longship by Marsail Taylor a Christmas present from Vicki, and I hope it is as good.