Book Review: Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (Shetland, 1)

Raven Black is the first book in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland Island series, featuring Detective Jimmy Perez. The novel is a classic murder mystery set on the rugged and remote Shetland Islands, off the coast of Scotland.

The story begins with the discovery of a young girl’s body on New Year’s Eve. The girl, Catherine Ross, had been missing for several months, and her body was found in a field near the home of Magnus Tait, a loner and outcast in the community. Tait had always been suspected of being involved in Catherine’s disappearance, but there was never any concrete evidence to prove it. Now, with the discovery of her body, suspicion falls squarely on Tait.

As Detective Jimmy Perez begins his investigation, he finds that the Shetland Islands are a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business. The islanders are suspicious of outsiders, and Perez, being from the mainland, is not initially welcomed with open arms. However, as he delves deeper into the case, he begins to uncover secrets and lies that have been hidden for years.

One of the strengths of Raven Black is the way in which Ann Cleeves sets the scene and brings the Shetland Islands to life. The rugged and isolated landscape is a character in itself, and Cleeves’ descriptions of the weather and the landscape give the reader a real sense of place. The islanders themselves are also well-drawn characters, with their own quirks and prejudices. Through their interactions with Perez, we see how the islanders are suspicious of outsiders and how they protect their own.

The character of Magnus Tait is also well-developed. He is an outsider in the community, and his behavior is often strange and erratic. Perez is initially convinced that Tait is guilty of Catherine’s murder, but as he digs deeper, he begins to realize that things are not quite as they seem. The way in which Cleeves gradually reveals Tait’s backstory is expertly done, and we begin to understand why he is the way he is.

Perez himself is a sympathetic character, and we see him struggling to fit in with the islanders while dealing with his own personal demons. He is grieving the loss of his wife, who died several years earlier, and his relationship with his teenage stepdaughter is strained. Perez is a man who keeps his emotions tightly controlled, and we see how his grief has affected him in subtle ways.

The murder mystery itself is well-plotted, with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. As Perez uncovers more information, he begins to realize that there are several people in the community who could have had a motive for killing Catherine Ross. Cleeves keeps the tension high throughout the novel, and the final reveal is both surprising and satisfying.

One of the themes of the novel is the way in which small communities can hide secrets and protect their own. The islanders are suspicious of outsiders and are quick to close ranks when one of their own is accused of a crime. This is something that Perez has to navigate as he tries to uncover the truth about Catherine’s murder. He is an outsider in the community, but he is also a police officer, and he has a duty to find out what happened to Catherine.

Raven Black is a well-written and engaging murder mystery that will appeal to fans of the genre. The setting is unique and well-drawn, the characters are well-developed, and the plot is full of twists and turns. Ann Cleeves is a master of the genre, and Raven Black is a great introduction to her Shetland Island series. You can pick up a copy from Amazon here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s