Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review of White Nights by Ann Cleeves (2008, Pan)

On the Shetland Isles the white nights of mid-summer when the sun barely sets over the horizon has everyone a little crazy. One evening a practical joker gate-crashes the opening of an art exhibition in the remote village of Biddesta. The next morning he is found hanging in a boat shed. Inspector Jimmy Perez was at the launch, hoping to start a new relationship with artist Fran Hunter. He's called to the scene and the local doctor rules the death murder rather than suicide. Whilst Perez waits for Chief Inspector Roy Taylor to arrive from Aberdeen, delayed by fog, he gets to work investigating the crime. The village of Biddesta is small, but tight knit, with a long shared history and secrets. The hanged man not yet identified, another murder is committed; this time a famous local musician is found at the bottom of a cliff. Taylor is wound like a cog, always wanting to force the pace of the investigation, whereas Perez is more reflective and circumspect. As a shetlander, Perez knows the people and place, but the puzzle of the deaths and the reason behind it are elusively out of reach and take a while to fall into place.

White Nights is the second book in the Shetland Quartet. My review of the first, Raven Black, is here. The strength of White Nights is its sense of place and characterisation. Cleeves immerses the reader in the small community, ways of life, and landscape of the Shetland Isles. The characters are well penned and the relationships between them credible and compelling. The telling was a little too descriptive at times for my tastes, especially near the start, but Cleeves has a nice easy going style of storytelling that is pleasant to the eye. I thought the middle of the book, once the investigation is well underway and Taylor is adding spice to tale, was excellent. My main problem was the resolution, which didn't quite gel for me. Regardless, this was a good, solid enjoyable read and I look forward to the third book in the series.


Sarah said...

Although I am a big fan of Anne Cleves I hadn't read any of her Shetland series. But I read Raven Black in December and enjoyed it very much. I am looking forward to White Nights when I find a second hand copy.

Maxine Clarke said...

I have very much enjoyed this series, but if I had to say one was weaker than the others, it would be this one. The next two get better and better, in my view.