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4.0 out of 5 starsStrong
Reviewed in the United States on December 27, 2015
Very few writers can have in their output 4 strong series with almost equally great success. Ann Cleeves is one of those rare birds. The TV show "Vera" made her more popular, but the first entry in this, Shetland series brought her a Dagger award. The second novel in this original series is very good. I see that people complain about the same thing everybody else complains these days. Apparently everything is too slow paced and not enough fast moving for these readers. Well, I couldn't disagree more. For stupid, relentless action turn to Hollywood movies, but be aware, after every movie you watched , you'll have less brain cells left. I prefer Ann Cleeves, at least she doesn't insult my intelligence.
Again, a little too slowly paced. While I enjoy stand alone fiction novels that employ multiple narrators or POV, I really believe a mystery series needs to be more streamlined. I think I'd like these books better if the story was told through only one or two POV, say Jimmy and Fran. There are far too many here and it bogs down the story. I really don't care for the character of Taylor and certainly didn't welcome the sections told from his POV this time around. Why in the second book and not the first? And now it seems he may be gone altogether (with any luck). And the parts told from the POV of the first murder victim's assistant were pointless. All they did was reveal the victim's identity to the reader before Jimmy or Taylor could find the answer. Absolutely no point at all. In fact, I'd like to try solving the mystery along with our protagonists while using the clues and information available to them. The scenes told from the assistant's POV added absolutely nothing to the story, as the information would have been divulged through Jimmy or Taylor eventually.
The secondary characters in "White Nights" were much more sympathetic than those featured in "Raven Black". And I do like the evolving relationship between Jimmy and Fran. Ann Cleeves really needs to focus the narrative through these two.
5.0 out of 5 starsEven Better than Raven Black and that was Darn Good!
Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2016
Just a quick review since I wrote a longer one for Raven Black. This was even better than the first book. The descriptions of the landscape and the eerie white nights were powerful. I loved it even more than Raven Black and I enjoyed that one very much, too. Looking forward to the third book in the series.
One quick note, I liked the way she handled the series continuity. She didn't give away too much. So readers do not have to read them in order.
Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2018
Another excellent work by Ann Cleeves. I found the BBC series "Shetland" first, and came to the books much later. My wife calls these types of shows my "people with accents in dreary locations solving murders". It is always interesting to see what the producers decided to change from the books for the screen, and there are some changes. If you've watched the show and are looking for an exact replica in book form, you will be a bit disappointed...likewise, if you've read the books and are looking for the show to match word-for-word you won't get that. But please realize that both the books and the series are fantastic! I cannot remember if this book was made into an episode or not, as all the material here seemed new to me. I read through this book in less than 3 days, part of which was on a foggy ferry ride so it quite set the mood. As an American (albeit with some Scottish ancestry several generations back) some of the terms I did have to pause and look up (e.g., kirk = church) but probably only a handful across the entire book and it didn't detract from my enjoyment. I won't discuss the plot, I'll just say that if you like people with accents in dreary locations solving murders I highly recommend both the books and the show.
4.0 out of 5 starsWill Keep You Working to Solve It
Reviewed in the United States on January 27, 2021
This is not the typical murder detective book that writers churn out ad nauseam for the profitable mass book market. You will no solve this. These are not beautiful characters with beautiful lives living in beautiful homes.
The characters are Interesting and at first blush simple people living in a tight community where you're either born there and are one of them, or you're an "inner" who will always be an outsider. If you've never lived on an island or an extremely remote area, you'll soon understand how difficult it is to have secrets, and this is a book about secrets.
The setting of the very north of Britain accurately portrays the often treeless landscape, the moors, and the long days of summer in the land of the midnight sun on the North Sea.
This is not the Jimmy Perez as depicted in the television programme, but perhaps this Jimmy is more authentic as both a man and a detective relegated (by choice) to a small policing unit in The Shetland Islands. Stationed here, Perez is unlikely to advance any further, but he is comfortable with that. This is home. It's what he knows.
This book is a very worthwhile read. It's unpredictable and not the hack plotline and trite characters so many writers churn out in books today.
4.0 out of 5 starsBrilliant expose on violent crime in a peaceful community, marred only slightly by a questionable motive of the murder.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 20, 2017
After the atmospheric first in the series, Raven Black, Ann Cleeves follows up superbly with a brooding and equally menacing portrayal of life at the height of summer in Shetland and the curiously unsettling effect of the 'simmer dim' on life in the islands. In the long summer nights when it never seems to get dark the islands are a hive of activity with tourists flocking to the area on the cruise ships. With folk kept awake by the light an edgy and heightened sense of anxiety seems to pervade the region, with outsiders observing the way of life and the eccentricity of the inhabitants. Biddista is a small community isolated from the rest of the island by a hill on one side and a sea on the other. The opening of an art exhibition bringing the work of the noted Shetland artist, Bella Sinclair, together with outsider and new talent, Fran Hunter, turns into something of a damp squib when a poor turnout and even the presence of Bella's nephew, Roddy, serenading on his fiddle doesn't rejuvenate the atmosphere after a distraught stranger falls to his knees and starts weeping. Inspector Jimmy Perez is on hand and his first opinion in a simple case of midsummer madness and the theatrical hysteria that it routinely brings. Feeling almost duty bound to assist, when Jimmy offers him an ear he claims to have lost his memory, with no knowledge of how or why he arrived at the event. Seeming an unlikely candidate for suicide but reluctant to be left on his own, the mystery man slips away from the exhibition leaving Perez wondering and feeling a sense of responsibility.
When the morning brings a call of a man hanging from a rafter in the communal fishing hut, Perez is guilt ridden that he could have done more to help the unidentified man. Evidently an Englishman who neither Bella or Fran claim knowledge of, the manic grin of a plastic clown mask that covers his face in death recalls the performer entertaining the incoming tourists from the cruise ships earlier in the day. Later confirmed as the same street performer who distributed flyers announcing the cancelling of the evenings exhibition due to death in the family, Perez and the locals wonder just who is he and why has he come. When confirmation is given that the man's death was not suicide, chillingly showing signs of a premeditation that is a rarity in violent crimes on Shetland. More bizarrely, just what is the intended significance of the sinister clown mask? The confirmation of murder brings DCI Roy Taylor, a Liverpudlian based in Inverness to Biddista. Still smarting from Inspector Jimmy Perez being credited with solving the first case they worked on together he is a little uneasy with Perez and the lack of urgency that seems to be a trademark of life in the area. Marked out by his distinctive colouring which seems to set him apart from the more easily identifiable Shetlanders, Inspector Jimmy Perez stands out like a island in the midst of choppy waters.
Jimmy Perez's unconventional attitude and acceptance of the way things function on the islands immediately makes locals infinitely more comfortable in his presence. Never appearing awkward or rushing to fill in the gaps in conversation, his equanimity makes him an excellent judge of character. Indeed he is the focal point for the investigation. Jimmy and Fran's burgeoning relationship gives readers a more rounded take on his personality and the early days of the romance have all the headiness of teenage sweethearts. Anxious-to-please Whalsay lad, Sandy Wilson hangs eagerly onto Perez's coat tails, but never quite seems to process the actual import of a violent murder in a peaceful community. It soon becomes clear that the victim might have been an outsider, but the answer to his death lies in the history in the Shetlands.
Cleeves is a captivating chronicler of the landscape and the locals, bringing a true appreciation for the remoteness, often bleak weather and the way in which every scrap of privacy is cherished. The investigation itself revolves around the handful of families that live in Biddista and artist, Bella is first to fall under the spotlight. Cleeves fleshes out her characters so well, weaving in resentments, past acrimony and intimate affairs and uncovering a host of hidden secrets, making for a captivating novel which swiftly becomes all consuming It fascinates me how Ann Cleeves makes the lives of the inhabitants in a isolated community so fascinating, particularly when their lives and occupations are so diametrically opposed to the life that most of us know and live. Four families that go back generations and are connected by everything from the broken hearted older brother of Kenny disappearing after a failed relationship with local sophisticate Bella Sinclair, to the petty grievances and sniping surrounding a broadside on a piece of amateur art. A second murder on the shape of Roddy Sinclair however brings new angles to the case and Perez knows that the answer lies in the history of the natives. Whilst the resolution and identification of the killer was a little unsatisfactory to my mind, with a slightly implausible motive detracting from the revelations, it will not dim my enthusiasm for this series. Cleeves provides plenty of subtle clues along the way making this an ideal novel to test eagle-eyed readers.
5.0 out of 5 starsPassion and greed in a remote community
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 9, 2018
In contrast to the harsh winter conditions of the first Shetland Book, White Nights is set in the relentless light and birdsong of midsummer when tourists swarm off the ferries and cruise ships, but most of the events occur in a tiny remote community where six young people grew up together. At first there is very little concern about the death of an outsider but once one of their own is murdered, fear and suspicion is rife. Once again Liverpudlian DCI Roy Taylor has arrived from Inverness to take over the case, but he and Jimmy Perez have grudging respect for each other, allowing Jimmy to quietly talk to Kenny, who found the body, and others who might have seen something that evening. Jimmy’s budding relationship with Fran Hunter is at the early stages so the fact that the murder is linked to the art exhibition Fran has shared with flamboyant artist, Bella Sinclair, worries him. There are wonderful descriptions of the changing light on the countryside, of the myriad of birds and about the gathering of the sheep for shearing. Very gradually we come to know more about Bella’s past and her affection for her nephew Roddy, a talented musician. Relationships between the other residents of Biddista are examined both by Perez and the reader, while amusing comments are made about the nosy observations of author, Peter Wilding, looking out of his window as he sits writing his latest novel. The plot darkens as new discoveries are made in a clifftop chasm and Jimmy has to face his vertigo. In a care home, Willy, an old sailor, may hold the key to the mystery but he is lost in the realms of Alzheimer so the links with the outside world must be followed by Taylor and Perez. Another engaging read about passions and greed.
4.0 out of 5 starsRecommended, but not as quite good as the first Shetland book ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 29, 2020
Ann Cleves is a master-story teller, a descriptive writer and a weaver of intriguing plots; and after the dark Shetland winter of the first book this time she gives us the endless daylight of the Shetland summer. But with the "simmer dim" comes murder and once again Perez has his hands full with bodies, new love Fran and "help" from the mainland in the form of Inverness DCI, the Liverpudlian Roy Taylor making a return to the Shetlands [no spoilers here, others have published enough for you to skip most of the book and cut to the denouement!].
"White Nights" is perhaps not as good as the first Shetland book, "Raven Black" which was much darker [in many ways!] and it was that darkness that made it such a good read. But don't get me wrong I enjoyed "White Nights" but for different reasons although the denouement was weak and that's why it's only four stars.
Like its predecessor the treeless Shetland landscape and its rugged coastline are as much a character of the book as Perez, Fran, and Taylor. Parts of the story are told through the eyes of Taylor, an outsider, and it's his reaction to the strange desolate landscape, the everlasting days and the hostility he experiences from the tight-knit community of inbred-insiders with their ingrained suspicions of outsiders and their webs of closely guarded secrets that only one of their own can untangle that makes this book work (and there's an interesting sidebar in Taylor's response to his second exposure to Shetland).
So recommended, but do read "Raven Black" first; next up for me is book three, "Red Bones", and it's going to be springtime in Shetland and that must mean more murder.
PS. Once again a warning for devotees of the TV series, this Perez is not Douglas Henshall, although this time there are less descriptions of the Fair Islander's Mediterranean appearance.
I thoroughly enjoyed Raven Black, the first in Anne Cleeves’ Shetland series, so I was looking forward to reading White Nights. Like in Raven Black, Cleeves creates a strong sense of place. She brings Shetland vividly to life and gives excellent insight into life in a small, remote community. However, I was a little disappointed with the story, which lacked the strength and depth of Raven Black. The pace was slow and it didn’t pick up until close to the end.
Although not my favourite read this year, I will continue with the Shetland books. Cleeves is an excellent writer and perhaps my expectations were a little too high after Raven Black!
5.0 out of 5 starsA thoroughly absorbing and gripping read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 28, 2020
During an art event in the small community of Biddista, Shetland cop Jimmy Perez encounters an Englishman who appears to have lost his memory. When the man is later found dead in a fisherman’s hut, it looks like suicide, but further examination reveals he’s been murdered. Forced to bring in experts and another detective from the mainland, Perez struggles to discover the dead man’s identity. But when another body turns up, the investigation starts to look like a conspiracy.
Set against the backdrop of midsummer on Shetland, this is book two in the series and like the first one, Perez has DCI Roy Taylor to contend with, as well his flourishing relationship with artist, Fran. Ms Cleeves has a talent for describing landscape and wildlife, as well as the petty squabbles and insecurities that flourish in such tightknit communities. The gradually unravelling mystery is beautifully done, and while the denouement isn’t quite as satisfying as in the first book, the author’s intelligent use of language and her cast of deftly-drawn characters, is more than enough to make this a thoroughly absorbing and gripping read.