‘Raven Black,’ by Ann Cleeves

Raven Black

I’ve been watching the latest series of the BBC dramatizations of Ann Cleeves’ Shetland mysteries, starring the character of Inspector Jimmy Perez. So I thought I’d check out the first novel in the series, Raven Black.

My verdict: I’m not sure.

First thing I noticed: The real Jimmy Perez in the books looks nothing like the guy who plays him on TV. In the book his appearance mirrors his exotic name (he’s a descendant of a sailor of the Spanish Armada, shipwrecked in Shetland). The guy on the show looks like he could be Norwegian. Or any kind of northern European.

Anyway, the story starts when a single mother living in the town of Lerwick discovers the body of a teenaged girl, strangled in the snow. Suspicion quickly falls on a man living nearby, a mentally retarded oldster who was once accused, but not convicted, of killing a little girl.

Inspector Perez is not convinced of the old man’s guilt. Eventually he learns that the girl was filming a documentary about life in the Shetlands, and a number of people didn’t like the direction her project seemed to be taking.

I’ve always been leery of women mystery writers, even (or especially) when they give us male protagonists. I didn’t dislike Raven Black, but I found it a little dull. In what seems to me the common fashion among female authors, the emphasis is more on relationships than action (even though the book is advertised as a thriller). I like relationships and personalities in my mysteries – in fact I insist on them – but I prefer the mix to be a little stronger on the danger side.

I may read more books in the series, or I may not. Not sure yet. I like the setting; it’s interesting to me for its own sake. Jimmy Perez, though, seems to me kind of a stick.

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