Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
Of the many books featured in Rules for Perfect Murders, I was delighted to see Ann Cleeves' Raven Black mentioned. Ann is an author with a lot of links to the area in which I live. And I'm going to be completely shameless here and do a bit of name-dropping, but Ann and I sat next to each other in a Russian evening class that we both attended. There we got to grips with the Cyrillic alphabet, learnt Russian Grammar and enjoyed our annual Russian party with the rest of the class and which featured a lot of Balalaika music and Borscht. I can confirm that Ann is very kind, and a jolly excellent writer to boot.
In the bookshop we held an event with Ann Cleeves and her forensic advisor, whose no nonsense and down to earth attitude held us all riveted for the whole evening as she detailed crime scene scenarios. How her team would chortle at the methods employed by the popular TV series CSI. Instead of a computer programme detailing bullet trajectory, her team had a ball of string and some blue tac. Ann was more than happy to stand aside and let her friend have the well-deserved limelight. And for me this became one of my favourite events that we had held. Raven Black is the first book in the Shetland Series to feature Inspector Jimmy Perez.
From the Back of the Book
On New Years Day, 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.
The body is found close to the home of a lonely outcast and suspicion falls firmly on him. But when Inspector Perez insists on broadening the search for suspects, a veil of distrust and fear is thrown over the entire community. As the case develops, Perez finds himself peering deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.
This was quite a gem and I am delighted that I have finally got to read it after all these years. The pacing throughout differs and this feels intentional, but also extremely well done. The start is slower, atmospheric and at times quite oppressive. The body is discovered and we see a community confused and suspicious. That such a thing could happen in Shetland and outside the door of a man with connections to another child's disappearance is shocking. Again the pacing mirrors this. Each character has their secrets; debauched parties are held, a son who enjoys being with girls considerably younger than he is, a father who has all but abandoned his daughter following the death of her mother. Each character is deeply flawed in some way, honest and human. This all contributes to the atmosphere of foreboding.
And then just as you genuinely have no idea what is going on, the pacing moves into 6th gear. The last 50 pages are where we get to the heart of it. 20 pages out, I still had no idea who did it. And then with a flick of the writer's wrist, it is over and the case is solved.
Jimmy Perez is a very likeable detective, torn between doing a job he loves and the family business. Never quite feeling at home. He almost takes a background role to the people of Shetland, quietly asking his questions, very much a piece of fabric woven into the community.
I've awarded this book 4⭐️'s. It is a fantastic atmospheric thriller and I would heartily recommend it. Brilliant!
I will be back on Friday with my picks from the Indie Bookshop Summer Catalogue. There are so many books I now want!