Monday, October 6, 2008

Review: WHITE NIGHTS - Ann Cleeves

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Published: 2008-10-05
2nd in the Shetland Quartet series

WHITE NIGHTS is the second in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland quartet. In her first, Raven Black, we met Jimmy Perez, a detective sergeant born and raised in the Shetland Isles. We followed Jimmy as he solved a murder and met Fran, a divorcee with a daughter.

In WHITE NIGHTS Jimmy and Fran are on the brink of taking their friendship one step further. It is mid-summer, that time of the year when the sun never quite sets in the Shetlands. It can disturb sleep patterns and they reckon it can send people a little bit mad.

Fran is having her first art exhibition with Bella. Bella is a local woman with an international reputation, so Fran is thrilled to be sharing the limelight with her. On the big night, the turnout is disappointingly small and is also marred by the presence of a stranger; a man who stands in front of one of Fran’s paintings, head in hands and begins to sob. Jimmy steps in to try and help. He takes the stranger into the kitchen and leaves briefly. When he returns the stranger is gone. He is found the next morning, hanging in a fishing shed. The marks on his neck quickly establish it wasn’t suicide and Jimmy begins the investigation.
Reading Ann Cleeves is a little like being an addict. You very quickly become hooked as Cleeves
drip-feeds background information of her characters in very measured doses. And you have to pay attention. Miss one piece of this information and you might miss a vital clue.

The protagonist, Jimmy Perez is a quiet thoughtful man, familiar with the Islands and the people. His boss D.I. Taylor, who flies in from Aberdeen for major cases is the opposite. He is unable to sit still and has a bull-at-a-gate approach. They work well as a team and have developed a solid working relationship. It’s a fine line Jimmy has to walk in his investigations. He has to find out who committed the crime, yet he has to live with these people.

The characters, the island and its culture are all beautifully described. I’ve never visited the Shetlands but I feel as if I am there when reading these books. I have loved both books in the Shetland series and my regret is that Cleeves has stated she is only writing four. Each book represents a season of the year. We’ve had Winter and Summer. I can’t wait to read the other two seasons.

WHITE NIGHTS is one of my WOW books for 2008. Do yourself a favour and get hold of a copy. I’m sure it will be one of yours.

Cleeves' website at h gives details of the third in the series scheduled for publication early in 2009.