Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

Thanks to my participation in The Typically British Reading Challenge 2010 I finally got a chance to read Raven Black. It was sitting on my TBR shelves for quite some time, perhaps due to the perverse habit of reading ‘last in first out’, as it has been wisely coined by Bernadette.

The action takes place in the Shetland Islands. The early hours of New Year’s Day two sixteen year old girls, Sally and Catherine, make a visit to Magnus Tiat, a foolish old man who lives alone, just for fun. A few days after the body of one of the girls, Catherine Ross, is found lying in the snow at Ravenswick, probably strangled by her own scarf. The corpse was found by Fran Hunter, a single mother who has returned to live in the islands with her daughter Cassie. The investigation is first conducted by the local DI Jimmy Perez, until reinforcements from Inverness arrive. Then Roy Taylor, a DI who despite having the same rank as Perez has more experience takes charge. Everyone is convinced that Magnus Tait has killed the girl. They were both together in the bus from Lerwick the previous evening and Magnus had been a prime suspect in the disappearance of an eleven years old girl, Catriona Bruce, a while ago. But Catriona’s body was not found and Magnus was never charged. Both Taylor and Perez do not want to jump into conclusions. The evidence against Magnus is only circumstantial and their responsibility is to obtain a conviction, not just to bring a suspect in front of a judge. The investigation is centre then on the environment of the victim, her behaviour the days prior to her death, her relationship with her father and her schoolmates, particularly with her best friend Sally Henry. Possible ‘boyfriends’ like Robert Isbister and Jonathan Gale, and her relationship with her English teacher David Scott. The investigation takes an unexpected turn when the body of Catriona Bruce is discovered by Fran Hunter again and…..

What it looks first like a police procedural turns after into a psychological thriller. The events are told form multiple points of view, Magnus Tait, Sally Henry, Fran Hunter, Jimmy Perez…. The atmosphere of an enclosed community where everybody knows everybody is vividly captured. The plot is well structured and the reading runs smoothly. The reader’s attention is caught by the characters drawn and the sense of place. One can even feel the cold weather in which the action evolves. I have really enjoyed reading this book and I look forward to read White Nights, the next instalment in the series.

Raven Black (2006) won the first Crime Writers’ Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger. It is the first book in a series, The Shetland Quartet, followed by White Nights (2008), Red Bones (2009) and Blue Lightning (2010). This is also the first book by Ann Cleeves that I’ve read and I do not expect it to be the last one.

Read other reviews by Maxine at Euro Crime, Sunnie Gill at Euro Crime, Margaret at Books Please, Dorte at DJ’S Krimiblog, and It’s a Crime! (or a Mystery…) among others.

Raven Black at the author’s website and the publisher’s (panmacmillan.com) website.

Search inside this book HERE.

Ann Cleeves

Raven Black (2006)

Pan Books 2006

Number of pages: 392

ISBN. 978-0-330-4411-4-8

5 thoughts on “Raven Black by Ann Cleeves”

  1. >José Ignacio – I'm very glad you enjoyed this book. I happen to like Ann Cleeves, and you are right; her novels are as much psychological as they are police procedurals. A fine review, and a good reminder of a solid series.

  2. >Excellent review, Jose Igancio. And I liked your post about the Up Helly Aa the other day – great name! I did like this book though I remember finding the "whodunnit" a bit unlikelhy/incredible. I think they improve as the series goes on, which is nice – as I think this one is pretty good!

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