My third book for this month’s 12 in 12 Challenge is a re-read. I am a great re-reader. I really enjoy revisiting series and books that I have enjoyed. This is why I keep so many books as I like to have them near at hand. I find that on a second read I either fall in love with the book again or I discover that it no longer holds my interest and I give it away. I am also making a point of rereading as many of the books on my shelves as possible because it is pointless to retain a book that I will never read again. Technically, therefore, this book wasn’t on my to-be-read pile but it was probably on my imaginary I-will-read-again-soon pile (which is also quite long !).
Anyway, I am glad that I reread Ann Cleeves’ novel Raven Black which is the first in her Shetland series. I am aware that there has been a TV series made from the books but I have never seen it. Tt has made this series very popular though. I acquired all the books one by one as they were published, some in paperback and some on Kindle, because I enjoyed the novels.
This first book introduces us to Jimmy Perez, a police officer working on Shetland but originally from Fair Isle which is a much smaller island. Perez is divorced and under some pressure to return home and croft as a neighbour to his parents. On Shetland a young woman is killed and her body left in a field. Immediate suspicion falls on Magnus, a learning disabled older man who lives nearby and was suspected when another young woman also disappeared previously.
The story is told from the point of view of Perez as he investigates with the addition of police officers from the mainland who are flown in to assist; Fran who is a single mother living on the island and who found the body; and Magnus who observes and remembers.
One of the things I particularly like about this book is that the author doesn’t include a lot of what you would expect. The team from the mainland don’t regard Perez as an idiot, no one automatically leaps to the conclusion that Magnus must be guilty because of his learning disability, and incomers aren’t treated with general suspicion. There isn’t a huge amount of conflict.
The writing about the scenery and the way of life on the island is beautifully done. The author makes it quite attractive in one way but also highlights the disadvantage of working and living in such a small community.
The characters are not all good or all evil. They have habits and flaws and each of them seems to be at a turning point in their lives. The portrayal of grief and loss is very moving. I did think that the revelation of the murderer is well handled but I would perhaps have liked more detail on what had triggered both murders.
This is an excellent book. I thought so when I first read it and I enjoyed the re-read – it stays on my shelves and I now need to re-read the second book in the series. The author is an excellent crime novelist although I am not a great fan of her Nora Stanhope series set in Northumberland. I recently read her new book, The Long Call set in Devon, which is intended to start a new series and I liked that a lot.