read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

Raven Black

I was thinking it a miracle that I was, for once, free to do a mini challenge/read along sort of thing, in this instance the Persephone Reading week. Silly me... I should have known it wouldn't be that easy. And it wasn't. I was checking my library page and discovered that someone had reserved a book I really wanted to read and that it was due back in a few days. That book was Raven Black by Ann Cleeves and I've been waiting to get this one from the library for months, so there was no way I was taking it back unread. I'm so glad I didn't.

Fran Hunter and her daughter, Cassie, are incomers to Shetland, although her ex-husband, Duncan, is a local. Fran has moved them both to Shetland so that she can bring Cassie up in a nicer environment and also so that she can have some kind of relationship with her father.

It's Fran who discovers the body of a teenage neighbour, Catherine Ross, in a field. Catherine and her father, Euan, are also incomers having moved there after the death of his wife. Suspicion immediately falls upon Magnus Tait, a simple, almost retarded, man who lives alone. Catherine and her friend Sally Henry had made a drunken visit to his house on New Year's Eve, a couple of days previously. As he had been the main suspect in the disappearance of young girl, Catriona Bruce, eight years ago, who was never found, it's obvious that he is suspect number one now.

Inspector Jimmy Perez is called in to investigate but has to make way for another team from Aberdeen, although he is still heavily involved. He is not happy about Magnus being the main suspect. Something doesn't sit right. There are few similarities between the two cases and several things happen which Magnus would not be capable of. But there are therefore many other suspects, boys the girl knew, a teacher, other adults who might be harbouring secrets. How can Perez and Taylor, the Aberdeen detective, possibly find a killer when no one wants to talk?

Yet another excellent crime author discovered. Having read about this series on several other blogs I had a feeling I would like these books set in Shetland - and I really did! There's an excellent sense of place, of a very long Viking history with the background the Up Helly Aa fire festival, of bleak, wind-swept, snowy winters and it's all rather beguiling. There's also a strong sense of the 'them and us' syndrome you get on remote islands. People are drawn there for the lifestyle but how long does it take to fit in or be thought of as a local? Answer: many generations!

The detective in this series, Jimmy Perez, is an interesting creation. Scruffy, describing himself as 'emotionally incontinent', he is from Fair Isle where his family still live. His mother would like him to buy a croft and settle back there and, truthfully, Jimmy is tempted by such an idyllic life. There's also a theory about the oddness of his Spanish surname which is interesting to read.

As to the crime itself, the murder of Catherine Ross, the resolution came as a complete surprise to me. Which is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned, I don't mind guessing the culprit early on but it's more fun when you have no idea and get quite a shock.

This was a nice, complicated crime novel with an excellent sense of place and the people who live there. I shall definitely be continuing with the series and hope that subsequent books are equally as good as this one.
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