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Book Review: Raven Black by Ann Cleeves


Raven Black,Ann Cleeves,Shetland series. Jimmy PerezRaven Black
by Ann Cleeves
This is Book One of the Shetland Island Quartet and winner of the 2006 Duncan Lawrie Dagger (U.K.) for Best Crime Novel

On the remote island of Shetland, Fran Hunter is walking home when she spots a splash of red in the deep, white snowdrifts, with black ravens flying above. What a perfect picture it makes, she thinks. But on closer inspection, she finds that the “perfect picture” is the dead body of local teenager Catherine Ross, whose red scarf has been used to strangle her. Suspicion immediately falls on recluse Magnus Tait, who was accused–but never convicted–of kidnapping another girl eight years earlier. Policeman Jimmy Perez, assigned to the case, isn’t convinced of Magnus’ guilt. As he investigates, he uncovers a web of sinister secrets, strange superstitions, petty rivalries, thwarted love, and illicit affairs–the dark underbelly of Shetland’s tight-knit community.

This is the first Ann Cleeves work that I’ve read and, once again, I praise the web-site Fantastic Fiction where I can find out what series an author has written and the chronological order of the books in each; and our public library system which allows me to borrow from other library systems in our province – in this case, it was the Annapolis Valley Regional Library that lent me this book.

The Shetland Islands seem a romantic setting for a murder that is decidedly unromantic. Cleeves draws the Shetland island community as closed and suspicious of outsiders, as it likely is–much like most other islands around the world.

If guilt for this murder has to be pinned on someone local, then simpleton Magnus Tait is the obvious choice. Most people in the community have already decided he was responsible for the disappearance of a young girl eight years previous. But the reader knows Magnus didn’t do it – or did he?

The setting is a little bleak, the detective a little low-key, the subject matter a little dark (but not as taut as, say, a Kathy Reichs serial killer novel), but the plot advances steadily and evenly and there are plenty of clues to the identity of the murderer. But, since there’s also plenty of red herrings, it’s unlikely you’ll figure out who it is until the end of the book. Cleeves manages to make nearly everyone in the area appear to be a possible suspect. In my mind, that is one of the marks of a really good mystery. And this is one.

I’d like to read the other four books in this series (White Nights, Red Bones, and Blue Lightning). Recommended for mystery fans.

A solid four out of five stars.

Reading Challenges: Raven Black satisfies six of my reading challenges: the Colorful Challenge, the First in a Series Challenge, the Book Awards Challenge, the New To Me Authors Challenge, the Support Your Local Library, and 100+.

Chapters/Indigo link for Canadian readers:
Raven Black

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P.S. If you click through the affiliate links in the book titles, you may notice a different cover. I like to see the cover that’s on the copy I read – and it’s usually different than because they display the American release, and I read the Canadian. Again, the links are affiliate links so I will receive a small percentage of any purchase you make after clicking through from this blog.

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2 Comments to

“Book Review: Raven Black by Ann Cleeves”

  1. On January 21st, 2010 at 9:33 pm Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict Says:

    Sounds really good.

  2. On January 22nd, 2010 at 2:20 pm Debbie Says:

    If you like mysteries, then I think you’ll really enjoy this!

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