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Monday, 4 March 2013

White Nights by Ann Cleeves

Recently I read Raven Black, the first in Ann Cleeves' Shetland series. You can read my review here - overall I enjoyed it, but felt the characters and setting hadn't quite lived up to their potential. For me it felt very much like a promising introduction to a series rather than an outstanding mystery in its own right. I don't usually like to dive straight into the second book in a series but made an exception in this case as the BBC adaptation is due to air on 10th March and I quite fancy watching it. There's no way I'll get through all four books before the week is up but I'd like to have given it a good go!

I was delighted to find that my suspicions were correct and that I found White Nights to be a much more satisfying read than its predecessor.

People like me who are unfamiliar with Shetland might tend to think of it as the cold, bleak place that is portrayed in Raven Black. In White Nights we are introduced to the other face of the islands, the interminable summer days when the sun barely even dips its head below the horizon. The locals have a difficult enough time adapting to this constant light every summer, so you can see how it could send a tourist close to crazy. When an English stranger turns up to an art exhibition in Biddista and behaves very bizarrely it is easy to assume the unique weather conditions have sent him a bit nutty. But later he is found hanged in a barn and Jimmy Perez suspects that something more sinister than suicide has occurred. To find all the answers he needs to look back years into the past and extend his search for clues much further than tiny Biddista itself.

I was totally gripped by this book and found it to have all the ingredients I love in a mystery. A relatively small cast of potential suspects, a mysterious stranger, a geniunely surprising conclusion that can only be solved by digging around in long-forgotten events of the past. Let me illustrate how engrossed I was: I was reading this at work on a Saturday in between answering calls on my bleep, and when the time came to go home it was actually an effort to put the book down and get in my car to leave the hospital!

We get a much better insight into Perez's character in this book and I found him to be an endearing protagonist. There is a quiet humility to the way he works that proves quite refreshing compared to the sort of super confident, suffer-no-fools detectives you often find in crime fiction. I was surprised to see the return of Taylor, the chief from the mainland, as he hadn't really captured my attention in the first book, but here the contrast between the two men's personalities worked well and I enjoyed seeing their working relationship develop.

Now I can't wait to read the next installment and find out what Perez's next challenge will be. Will you be watching the Shetland series when it airs on Sunday?

8 comments:

  1. Wow, this sounds really good - would you say it's necessary to read the first book in the series in order to understand this or does it work as a standalone?
    Lynn :D

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    1. Like so many of these crime series it works as a standalone, Lynn - I love that, as you can dip in and out depending which of the books you can get your hands on at the time. There's very little reference to the first book and you get to know Jimmy Perez quite quickly. Enjoy!

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  2. I am glad to hear that the 2nd one was better. I have Raven Black on my list to read soon, and this way I won't be disappointed ... if I find it unsatisfactory.

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    1. I certainly don't think you will find Raven Black at all unsatisfactory, Tracy. It's definitely a decent solid mystery. For me it was more than satisfactory but just lacked that certain spark some mysteries have that completely reel you in and make you lose yourself in the story.

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  3. That's interesting. I enjoyed the first book but obviously the follow-up is even better. Have your read any Peter May. If you like the north Scotland setting I'm sure you'll love the Lewis trilogy.

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    1. I have only read his China thrillers but the Lewis trilogy is now sitting right at the top of my TBR as I have the first two at home. It seems I can't get enough of the remote North Scottish island setting lately!

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  4. Well, I have to say you are making me want to read it!
    I didn't know anything about the series on TV, but well, I have to say that they disappoint me when I love the book so much.

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    1. The first episode of the series was aired on Sunday but I haven't watched it yet. I know what you mean though, I am slightly apprehensive in case it doesn't do justice to the books.

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