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Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Mysteries (Shetland Island Mysteries, 1) Paperback – June 24, 2008
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The basis for the hit series "Shetland" now airing on PBS.
Winner of Britain's coveted Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award, Ann Cleeves's Raven Black introduces a dazzling suspense series to U.S. mystery readers.
It is a cold January morning and Shetland lies beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter's eye is drawn to a splash of color on the frozen ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbor, Catherine Ross.
The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man--loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when detective Jimmy Perez and his colleagues from the mainland insist on opening out the investigation, a veil of suspicion and fear is thrown over the entire community. For the first time in years, Catherine's neighbors nervously lock their doors, while a killer lives on in their midst.
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“A riveting read.” ―Val McDermid
“Chilling...enough to freeze the blood.” ―Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“Chilling...enough to freeze the blood.” ―Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review
“Deserves the top crime writer's prize in the United States this year. Don't miss this standout.” ―Rocky Mountain News
From the Back Cover
"A fine and sinister psychological novel in the Barbara Vine style. Cleeves is part of a new generation of superior British writers."
---"The Globe and Mail" (Canada)
"A riveting read."
---Val McDermid, author of "A Place"" of Execution" "Beautifully constructed . . . brings alive the tensions in a place where everyone knows everyone else and nothing can be forgotten. Raven Black is lively and surprising."
---"Times Literary Supplement" (UK)
"Ann's characterization is worthy of the best writers in the field. . . . Rarely has the sense of place been so evocatively conveyed in a crime novel."
---"Daily Express" (UK)
"With a cast of well-drawn and convincing characters and an unexpected conclusion, "Raven Black" is the perfect novel to while away the long winter evenings by the fire."
---"The Tribune" (UK)
""Raven Black" shows what a fine writer [Cleeves] is . . . accomplished and thoughtful."
---"The Sunday Telegraph" (UK)
"Cleeves is a very good writer---strong on atmosphere, plot andpeople."
"---The Times" (UK)
- Publisher : Minotaur Books; 1st edition (June 24, 2008)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0312359675
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312359676
- Item Weight : 13.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.45 x 1.2 x 8.15 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #29,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The landscapes Cleeves describes are both beautiful and isolated, but hard for me to envision. I found myself wondering where Perez’s tiny waterfront house was located in relation to his office. How far away was the victim's body from her house? From the town of Lerwick? Cleeves does a great job with specific scenes. For instance, a particular description of a red scarf tied around high-schooler Catherine Ross’s neck acting as a beacon in the snow-covered field where she lies dead is etched in my mind.
The plot is well-crafted and slowly unfolds. The death of Catherine reminds others in the town of another mystery that happened years before, that of a very young girl who went missing and is thought to be dead. The teenager’s death and the disappearance of the elementary schooler have common links. Both girls had lived in the same house and both girls had met Magnus Tait, an intellectually disabled man who lived nearby.
The third person omniscient voice allows the reader to have access to some of Magnus Tait’s thoughts as well as Jimmy Perez’s. Other characters such as Fran Hunter, a divorced mother who finds Catherine’s body, Robert Isbister, the local twenty-something playboy, and Sally, Catherine’s so-called best friend contribute to and complicate the story. Perez himself knows one of the principles in the mystery, Duncan who is now a wealthy businessman, but in his boyhood was Perez’s best friend.
As this is a first in a series of books featuring Inspector Perez, I thought the background given on his history was a little sparse. Readers learn Perez went to high school in Lerwick and has parents that want him to move back to Fair Isle. Presumably, as the series continues, readers will learn more about him. This mystery is more of a police procedural than a fast-action thriller.
Top reviews from other countries
When sixteen year old Catherine Ross is found murdered by Fran Hunter, the crime brings back old memories to the residents of the island. For eight years ago, another little girl went missing and her body was never found. At the time, Magnus Tait, an old man who lives alone, was rumoured to be guilty of the crime. Now, he is also linked to Catherine Ross and the whispers start again.
Inspector Perez is a local man, despite his Spanish name, and he is not convinced of Tait’s guilt. What follows is an interesting cast of suspects – there is Fran Hunter’s ex-husband, Catherine’s widowed father, the wealthy Robert Ibister and others. As the story unfolded, I was happy to go along and not even try to guess the murderer, which did catch me completely by surprise. If you like well written crime books, with a good setting, then this is a good series to try.
In the days following the new year newcomer Fran Hunter discovers the body of Catherine Ross, a sixteen-year-old lass who arrived with her grief-stricken and preoccupied father from Yorkshire in the wake of her mothers death. Seemingly strangled by the vivid red scarf that she wore the locals are very keen to land the blame at the door of elderly simpleton, Magnus Tait, a man who to all intents and purposes has been ostracised by the residents of Ravenswick. It took an outsider in the form of Catherine to show a little kindliness and the last sighting of her entering the home of Magnus spreads like wildfire around the village. Catherine Ross isn't the first girl to go missing though, and the memories of eight years ago and the fate of Catriona Bruce are on everyone's mind. Once living in the home that Catherine and her father now occupy, Catriona was never found and her fate to this day remains shrouded in mystery. Tait's home was also the last sighting of Catriona on that day, his mothers baking the draw. For some locals including the obvious conclusion is that Magnus Tait is responsible for both, and Catherine's father makes clear his own bitterness that the perpetrator has been allowed to strike again. But as secrets are revealed, Magnus becomes to look like a very convenient fall guy for the events which have rocked the once peaceful community.
In the Northumbria setting it is the indomitable DCI Vera Stanhope who ruffles the feathers of the locals, open minded and without the prejudices that almost seem to be set in stone. In Shetland the man who stands apart from the locals is Inspector Jimmy Perez, a man who hails from neighbouring Fair Isle and attended the local school before his police training in Aberdeen. A marriage collapse with his former wife, Sarah, in the aftermath of a miscarriage has seen Jimmy return closer to home, although not close enough for his mother's liking as she frequently mentions in her phone calls. Inspector Jimmy Perez insists the investigation is carried out properly and ensures that a veil of suspicion is thrown over the whole community. Convictions needs evidence and tittle–tattle leaves Perez untouched. He does not believe that Magnus Tait has the capabilities and mindset to cover his tracks and as the questions continue the locals consider just how safe they are and suddenly people are looking their doors. Although Inspector Jimmy Perez is the detective on the island, a case this serious inevitably brings back up from Inverness. Acting as Senior Investigating Officer is DI Roy Taylor, a man with a huge presence and the assured confidence that the case will be wrapped up pretty swiftly. For some locals, it is Jimmy who they find themselves easier to communicate with; a scruffy but astute man with a restlessness air and an understanding of how things work in the local community. Eventually the early resentment between DI Roy Taylor and Perez evaporates as they find themselves united in the quest for the truth.
For some, like Fran, a single-mother to daughter, Cassie, she is intelligent enough to see how the community have closed ranks against her, outside of the trust that insulates the well-respected folk of Shetland. It is Fran who gives Perez his first insight into the hostility that the locals have despatched at the door of Magnus Tait. Relaxed and non-judgemental, Fran strikes up an excellent rapport with the affable Perez, and points to a possible romantic connection in the future. Cleeves takes her readers straight to the heart of the workings of life in Ravenswick, introducing a diverse cast with their own opinions about the events. Cleeves draws such well defined personalities for each of characters and her attention to detail means that readers never feel short changed with one dimensional stereotypes. Raven Black has a fantastic sense of location running throughout the novel, not just in ensuring the inhospitable weather conditions fill the pages, but also the traditions and habits of the culture are conveyed. Raven Black points an unremitting spotlight on the locals and as with any of the DCI Vera Stanhope series, Cleeves depiction of the community transports her readers to the throbbing pulse of the valley. Perez is both as perceptive as Vera and as unsettling for those with something to hide. The final denouement provides answers for events, both recent and eight years previously, and unravels on a suitably fitting evening on the occasion of Up Helly Aa, an annual celebration in nearby Lerwick.
Although readers are only furnished with the opinions of the locals as to the young Catherine Ross after her demise she seems to draw plenty of opinion with most men fixated by her beauty and charm whilst an equal number comment on her enigmatic aloofness that appeared stuck-up, almost as if she didn't need friends. Cleeves portrayal of Catherine, the victim, is honest, never falling into the trap of portraying Catherine as "whiter than white", as Cleeves soldiers on and delivers an insightful view of a young adult struggling with her own problems. With a cast of genuine suspects venturing into double figures, Raven Black is a brilliant first outing in the Shetland series and I shall certainly be looking forward to my next 'visit' with Ann Cleeves!
Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
If you have seen any of the television programmes you will find Jimmy Perez, the detective investigating the murder, a little different but still recognisably a quiet, thoughtful man. His approach is in contrast to the usual stereotypical policeman and is nicely balanced against the hyperactive, determined Detective Taylor. All the characters in this complex story are beautifully drawn and intensely human, fitting perfectly into a carefully plotted imaginative narrative.
In this book we learn a little about Jimmy’s youth and failed marriage but there is so much more yet to be revealed about his character, so I cannot wait to move on to the next investigation, especially as in September, the final “Shetland” novel, “Wild Fire” will be published.
The novel evokes none of the spirit of the Shetland Isles and is full of shallow and badly drawn characters. Apparently these books have been turned into TV series, all of which seem to have passed me by. There is a theory that if an infinite number of monkeys are put in a room with a typewriter for an infinite length of time they will eventually bash out Hamlet. Seems to me the same theory was applied here.
Absolute intellectually bereft tosh, and I won’t be reading any more if this author. The sort of novel you buy in a rush at Heathrow and throw away when you get to Singapore.
The television series had imprinted a version of Perez on my mind not readily dispensed with because of the photograph of Douglas Henshall unhelpfully displayed on the cover. Not many of the books characters survive for the TV version and that family life is completely out of sync with the timeline in the books. Perez has emotional baggage on TV and here in the book but not from the same past history.
The fresh faced Henshall is not the book Perez.
I am now at the end of the complete bibliography of Cleeves books. One thing I remind myself when reading any book is that the story can be enjoyed (or be a disappointment) separately from words (which can be even more of a disappointment).
This first occurred to me after hearing John Irving read from one of his novels where his cadence added much more. Having heard Cleeves talking it is easy to imagine her telling this story at a pace in keeping with the events unfolding slowly. She also writes well so that the usual devices used to delay too quick a progress in reaching a conclusion is filled with text that can be tolerated readily while teasing the reader's patience.
Clearly a jump forward from her Palmer-Jones and Ramsay books which had already been evidenced in the early Veras and her 2 one-offs.