Tag Archives: Ann Cleeves

‘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.