White Nights by Ann Cleeves: a Book Review

White Nights (Shetland Island, #2)

White Nights by Ann Cleeves is the second in her Shetland Quartet, featuring Detective Jimmy Perez. The first book is Raven Black, which I read and wrote about last year. I enjoyed this one just as much as the first and, although I think it stands well on its own, I think it best to read them in order as some of the characters appear in both and you can follow the development of their relationships.

White Nights is set mainly in Biddista, a fictional village of a few houses, a shop, an art gallery and restaurant called the Herring House, and an old Manse. Kenny Thomson finds a man’s body hanging in the hut where the boat owners of the village of Biddista keep their lines and pots. Perez recognises the dead man – he’s the mystery man who had caused a scene the previous evening at the opening of Bella Sinclair’s and Fran Hunter’s art exhibition. At first it looks as though the man, his face covered by a clown’s mask, has committed suicide, but he’d been dead before he was strung up and the murder team from Inverness, headed up by Roy Taylor, are called in. It takes quite some time before they can identify the dead man and even longer before the motive for killing him is revealed. And that is only after more deaths have occurred.

This is a most satisfying book for me. It’s not only full of believable characters, each one an individual in their own right, it also has a nicely complicated plot and a great sense of location. As well as the mystery of who killed the man in the clown mask and why, there is also the disappearance 15 years earlier of Kenny’s older brother Lawrence. It was thought that he left the island after Bella had broken his heart. Kenny hadn’t heard from him since and at first thought the dead man could be him.

It’s the place, itself, that for me conveyed the most powerful aspects of the book. The ‘white nights’ are the summer nights when the sun never really goes down. They call it the ‘summer dim’, the dusk lasts all night, and in contrast to the bleak, black winters, fills people with ‘a kind of frenzy‘. The landscape and the climate certainly play a great part in people’s lives.Taylor feels very much an outsider, almost too impatient to cope with what he thinks is Perez’s hesitant approach, until it occurred to him that

here in this bizarre, bleak, treeless community, Perez’s strange methods might actually get results. (page 263)

I could see the landscape and the sea, and I could hear the birds, the kittiwakes on the cliffs, the puffins and skuas. The Shetland Islands are part of theBritish Isles, but are so far north of the mainland that they are on about the same latitude as the southern point of Greenland.

However, I did think that the ending came rather suddenly after the careful build up to the mystery. The tension just gradually faded away as it became obvious who the culprit was. But I still think it’s a very good book, that held my interest, one that made me want to get back to it each time I had to put it down.

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Pan (5 Jun 2009)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0330448250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330448253
  • Source: Library Book
  • My Rating: 4/5

Library Loot/Teaser Tuesday

It’s been a while since I wrote a Library Loot post and as I went to the library today I thought I’d combine it with a Teaser Tuesday post.

I’ve dipped into each book. From top to bottom they are:

Follow Your Heart by Susanna Tamaro, translated from the Italian by Avril Bardoni. I fancied reading something a little different from my usual type of book – this book won the Premio Donna Citta di Roma in 1994. From the book jacket – it reflects on feelings and passions and how failure to communicate leads to futility, misunderstanding and tragedy – a meditation on existence. An old woman writes to her granddaughter. Here’s my teaser:

As I have wandered aimlessly through the empty house these last few months, the misunderstandings and bad temper that marred our years together have vanished. The memories surrounding me now are of you as a child – a vulnerable, bewildered little creature. (page 3)

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. A book I’ve known of for so many years and never read. I had no idea that it is a detective story! I love the way it begins:

Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical and nervous, anybody could tell he didn’t belong – belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind of the sea, the holiday crowd. (page 1)

I can just see the scene!

White Nights by Anne Cleeves. I’ve been looking out for this book, the second in her Shetland Quartet, ever since I enjoyed reading the first one – Raven Black. Shetland detective Jimmy Perez investigates what seems at first to be a straightforward suicide. This is my teaser:

‘I don’t know my name’, he said flatly. No drama now. ‘I can’t remember it. I don’t know my name and I don’t remember why I’m here.’ (page 16)

Sister by Rosamund Lupton. More crime fiction, a psychological thriller. I’d read about this book on a blog (sorry, can’t remember which one – it may have been more than one blog) and thought it sounded good. Beatrice’s younger sister Tess is missing. She refuses to give up looking for her and  is determined to discover the truth about Tess and what has happened to her.

For a moment, amongst the crowd, I saw you. I’ve since found out it’s common for people separated from someone they love to keep seeing that loved one among strangers; something to do with recognition units in our brain being too heated and too easily triggered. This cruel trick of the mind lasted only a few moments, but was long enough to feel with physical force how much I needed you. (page 26)

I have high hopes of all four books.