This is the first in the Shetland series and a book that has sat patiently on my bookshelf for many years, so many in fact that I have watched the TV series and still not read any of the books but the 20 Books of Summer 2018 challenge changed all that.
Now I’ll be honest, I usually prefer to read the books before watching them featured as I tend towards noticing the differences between descriptions of characters and that’s before we get onto the adaptions made for the small screen. I did love Douglas Henshall in the role of DI Jimmy Perez but I have a fairly short memory so I was sure I would have forgotten the plot. I was wrong but that didn’t in any way spoil my enormous enjoyment of this nuanced crime novel.
Two girls pay a visit to the local weirdo Magnus Tait on New Year’s Eve, they are drunk and have done it for a dare. No big deal Magnus loved having the visitors, probably because he didn’t understand their motivation. All was well until a couple of days later when Catherine Ross is found dead in a field, not far from Magnus Tait’s home. Magnus is the sort of character that is a familiar character from mine, and I suspect many other reader’s childhoods. The man that the children steered clear of for reasons that no-one quite understood. Of course our fictional character has taken it up a level, he was arrested, but not charged, with the disappearance of a child years before and ever since the Islanders have given him a wide berth.
The atmosphere of a small community coupled with the fabulous landscape are bought to life by Ann Cleeves words. This isn’t a tale that could happen anywhere, the Shetland Isles are almost a character in their own right. Cut off from the rest of the world in inclement weather, island life reflects modern life with a twist. The Police investigation has to balance the need to be seen to be doing something with avoiding inflaming needless tensions around someone who has already suffered, and who quite frankly is clearly disadvantaged.
The book also gives us a peek behind the life led by the teenagers on the island as well as contrasting those who are ‘incomers’ and kept at arm’s length. Catherine Ross was an outsider having come to the island to live with her father following the death of her mother. The grief of the father and the impact on his daughter also plays a part in the storyline.
You might think from all my rambling about what aspects are included within this book, that the mystery wasn’t much to write home about. You’d be wrong. The plot is so cleverly executed, this is a writer who knows how to pace her writing for the maximum tension without using a single weak device to do so. Even though I found I did remember far more of the TV series than I thought I would, in many ways that meant that I could admire the other aspects that really lends a depth to this crime novel. I will definitely be seeking to read more of this series, and of course this author.
Raven Black was my fourth read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge and I was transported from the hot sunshine to a very cold, windy place full of varied and three-dimensional characters.