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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.


I was put off Cleeves for a long time because I didn't care for her series set in the north east with an overweight drunk female inspector -- the 'ooh look she's a fat ugly drunk' got old very quickly!

I then read Blue Lightning, the latest in the Shetlands series quite recently and enjoyed it a lot -- I'd certainly like to go back and read the earlier books. The setting was fabulous, although I have to admit Jimmy wasn't the most interesting character in the book by quite some way.

Edited at 2010-05-06 02:55 pm (UTC)
I didn't even know she'd written anything else until I checked her page on the FantasticFiction site. *g* I wondered whether to try the other stuff... hmm... maybe not.

It's funny you should mention Jimmy because a casual commenter on my other blog told me privately that she had a crush on him after reading the first book. I thought, 'Why?' I'm with you... he could be more interesting *but* the setting and plot more than make up the shortfall. Worth going back to read the rest, imo.
You might also like to check out Ann Cleeves’s website which, I should disclose, we look after for her. Sorry not to reply sooner but have been on Fair Isle helping Ann to celebrate the launch of the fourth book in the series.
Oooh, I like the sound of this.

*Runs off to Amazon*
It's a good book, with an interesting plot and lovely setting. Imo, anyway. I hope you like it if you decide to get it.
I'm going to put it on my birthday list as Mother will be asking for ideas very soon now and I'm very short on ideas, so this will be a good one to put on.

BTW, the first book in the Black Magician sequel series arrived today.
That sounds like a very good plan to me. W & K are buying me the two Naomi Novik dragon books for my birthday. It works well as I'm delighted to have them.

Oh... I'll be interested to hear about the BM sequel! Hope it's good.
That sounds good to me.

And Happy Birthday to you here *g*

I've just started the Bartimaeus Trilogy that J wanted me to read, so it'll be a while before I get it to. I'll let you know.
Thanks again. :-)

The Bartimaeus trilogy is good. I've only read the first book (must get back to the series) but loads of people I know love those!
Again you're welcome.

I'm about two-thirds of the way through the first one and am enjoying it.