Raven Black by Ann Cleeves – book review
This novel won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for crime fiction in 2006.
He carried his drink upstairs. He was in no state to make any rational decision tonight. He looked out of the window and closed the curtains. Usually he fell asleep to the sound of water, almost imperceptible, not consciously noticed. Tonight the sea closest to the shore was still frozen and there was silence, except for the occasional strange creak. He had thought the image of the dead girl, her face pecked by birds, might keep him awake, but he was haunted by the view down Fair Isle from Skerry, sunlight over the South Harbour and cloud-shaped shadows racing over Malcolm’s Head.
The novel opens in the early hours of New Year’s Day in a frosty Shetland off the far north of Scotland. Old Magnus Tait is sitting in his chair waiting to see if any late revellers call in to see him. No one has done so for over eight years, since his mother died, but there’s always a chance.
A couple of days later a young girl is found strangled in the field below the old man’s house and the islanders are all certain who the perpetrator is.
Jimmy Perez, the detective assigned to the case, is a lonely man, still under pressure from his maternal family and he occasionally reminded me of Jo Leaphorn, the Navajo Lieutenant from the Tony Hillerman books.
I must say that I read very few whodunits these days, but Ann Cleeves is one of those writers who can keep me turning the pages until the final revelation.
And that is exactly what happened with Raven Black, and I was gripped as much by the landscape and climate of Shetland as I was by the characters living in fear and suspicion along its coastline.
Disclosure: Ann Cleeves is a friend of mine. I’ve known and worked with her in libraries, festivals and bookshops over the past few years, and hope to do so many times again in the future.