This was my first reading of an Ann Cleeves DI Vera Stanhope novel and overall it was very enjoyable.
Implausibly, social worker Jenny Lister is found dead in the steam room of Vera’s health club by Vera herself whilst she is there for a swim. Is the death linked to the case of Jenny’s former colleague Connie who was found guilty of misconduct in a case concerning a young child? The storyline is quite gripping from the start. My only criticism would be the ridiculous series of coincidences that lead to the murder, so much so that Cleeves herself feels the need to justify them,
“Vera closed her eyes and thought about chance and the coincidence of …… (no spoilers!) living in the same village, but Northumberland was the least populated county in England and in small communities there were always connections”
Vera on one level is a different kind of detective, screwed up like Rebus or Morse but interestingly for a woman heroine, with absolutely no glamour or seemingly sex appeal. I will be hunting out another Vera novel soon.
This is the third book in Cleeves’ Shetland quartet and in my opinion the weakest of the three I have read so far. It deals with the shooting of Mima Wilson on the island of Whalsay during an archaeological dig, was her death an accident or murder?
This book once again has the interesting portrayals of life in Shetland but the mixture of fictional characters and the real life Shetland archaeologist Val Turner didn’t seem to work and struck a false chord. The book was far too long and plodding. You don’t even find out if there has been a murder until two-thirds in and there is not a lot of tension. The dénouement is over in about five pages and unconvincing. This is a real shame as I loved her other novels in this series. I just hope the final one is a return to previous form.
I havent seen the BBC programme Shetland, that was based on this story yet but the reviews I have read on it which were not that positive, I don’t know if anyone else saw it but would be interested to know what people made of it. All I know is that I didn’t imagine Inspector Jimmy Perez to look like Douglas Henshaw.
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.