White Nights by Ann Cleeves
|White Nights by Ann Cleeves|
|Reviewer: Paul Curd|
|Summary: Two years ago, Ann Cleeves won the Crime Writers Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger for Best Crime Novel for Raven Black, the first in this four-novel sequence. White Nights is the second novel in the quartet, another stand-alone case for Shetland detective Jimmy Perez, and is just as good as the first. Highly recommended crime fiction.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 402||Date: June 2009|
|Publisher: Pan Macmillan|
A guest at the opening of a Shetland Isles art exhibition breaks down in tears as everyone else looks on in embarrassed horror. Jimmy Perez, on his first real date with one of the artists, Fran Hunter, helps the man to his feet, feeling it is his duty as a policeman to do so. The man, who is English, claims to have no memory of who he is or why he is there. Perez thinks that it has something to do with the light, the fact that the sun never quite slips below the horizon even at midnight. Here in the Shetlands they call it the 'simmer dim'. Everyone in the Shetlands goes a little crazy at this time of year. In the morning, though, the Englishman is found dead, hanging from the rafters of a fisherman's hut.
Who is the mysterious southerner? Why was he found with a clown's mask over his face? Why had he tried to ruin the art exhibition opening? More importantly, who strangled him and then tried to make the death look like a suicide? There are so many questions, but one thing is certain: there is a killer at large in the small island community of Biddista, and unless they are tracked down soon they will surely strike again.
At this point, the second of Ann Cleeves' quartet of Shetland crime novels follows a similar pattern of the first, with a team of detectives being flown in from Inverness to lead the investigation and local man Jimmy Perez having to play second fiddle to bluff Yorkshireman Roy Taylor. In the first book, Raven Black, the two very different detectives struck up an odd-couple kind of friendship. This time, though, the relationship between the two men is more strained.
In Raven Black I much admired the way Cleeves captured the physical 'feel' of the treeless Shetlands. In White Nights she seems to me to spend less time describing the physical terrain and is more involved in exploring the psychological landscape of Biddista, especially the complex relationships that develop in a small, remote community. The inchoate relationship between Jimmy Perez and Fran Hunter, neither of them entirely sure of themselves, is cleverly done, especially when Fran catches the eye of the intense English writer Peter Wilding. The interaction between quiet, thoughtful Perez and his brash and forthright colleague Taylor is similarly perfect in its evocation. But for me, the highlights of the book are the beautifully written chapters that tenderly capture the late-blooming marriage of Biddista residents Kenny and Edith Thomson.
This is the kind of crime writing I really enjoy: there's mystery and suspense, and a clever plot, but the strength of the book is in the characterisation and the quality of the prose. Like Ruth Rendell or P.D. James at their best, Cleeves gives you so much more than your average crime writer. Highly recommended.
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