It is a cold January morning and Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter’s eye is drawn to a vivid splash of colour on the white ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour Catherine Ross. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance . . .
The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man – loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when police 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 neighbours nervously lock their doors, whilst a killer lives on in their midst.
Raven Black is the first of Ann Cleeves “Shetland” novels. Having heard of Ann’s excellent reputation as a writer and long being a fan of “Vera” on TV, I finally managed to sit down and read this book. And I’m so glad I did. From the first suspenseful scene on a cold New Year’s Eve, to the last surprising denouement, I was hooked. Yet there is no hurry to reveal the perpetrator of the murders on this remote island. We gradually become acquainted with the harsh environment, the incestuous community where everyone knows each other’s business and the difficulty for young people growing up there.
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.
Raven Black is available from Amazon UK
On 26 October 2017, Ann Cleeves was presented with the Diamond Dagger of the Crime Writers’ Association, the highest honour in British crime writing, at the CWA’s Dagger Awards ceremony in London.
Presenting Ann with her award, Martin Edwards, Chair of the CWA, said: “It’s a lifetime achievement award, and above all it recognises excellence in writing. But it also recognises a significant contribution to the crime writing world. And nobody can deny that Ann Cleeves’ contribution has been magnificent.”
He went on to say that “You all know about the wonderful books, and you all know about the fantastically successful TV series. So, given that the recurring theme of this evening is friendship, I just want to say a few words about Ann the person,” and praised Ann for her kindness and generosity to others, and as a passionate advocate of the library service.
In 2006 Ann was the first winner of the Duncan Lawrie Gold Dagger Award for best crime novel of the year, for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland series. In addition, she has been short listed for CWA Dagger Awards, once for the short story dagger, and twice for the Dagger in the Library award which is awarded not for an individual book but for an author’s entire body of work.
Ann says: “It’s a huge honour to be recognized by my peers, the crime-writers whose books, friendship and support I’ve enjoyed for more than thirty years. I am privileged to have had such a happy career and I will always be grateful for the support of booksellers and forever indebted to the passion and expertise of librarians, without whom I wouldn’t still be writing today.”