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Cleeves, Ann - 'White Nights'
Paperback: 340 pages (June 2009) Publisher: Pan ISBN: 0330448250

WHITE NIGHTS is the second of Ann Cleeves' Shetland Mysteries of which I understand there will be four in total. The setting for this volume is summer, and the long, light nights when darkness never really falls so far north.

Jimmy Perez returns as the main detective and he's investigating a body found hanging in a boathouse. The dead man had made a scene at a local art gallery the previous evening, but no one seems to know who he is or why he was in Shetland. This is a small community where everyone knows everything about everybody else, but no one knows this man or why he has been killed.

The sense of place in this series is remarkable, catching the remoteness and isolation of the islands as well as that small town claustrophobia of a place where it's very difficult to have secrets. Perez himself is a bit of an outsider, for all that he's known some of the characters for many years, but he's more of a local than his boss, an Inverness based scouser. Even when they've managed to name the victim the pair still struggle to find a motive for the death, and further deaths serve only to complicate the picture. The omnipresent daylight makes the whole place a little out of kilter and it seems that it can have an odd effect if you're not used to it. There's a good, varied set of supporting characters and suspects and they're all interesting and multi-dimensional.

This is shaping up to be a good solid series, filled with lively, fully fleshed characters and complex and well-handled plots. It kept me guessing right to the end and it uses its setting well, drawing on the isolation and small town mentality of a hamlet on a small island off the coast of a small country. This, after all, is a place that's nearer to Norway than to Scotland, which gives it a familiar but still slightly foreign air. It's a great portrait of a community struggling to deal with the changes caused by the death of the old ways of life and coming to terms with the modern day. Cleeves catches the cadences of the islands in her dialogue and in the rhythm of her writing.

I really like this series and am looking forward to the next books. Cleeves is a writer who really knows her stuff.

Read another review of WHITE NIGHTS.

Pat Austin, England
August 2009

Pat blogs at Mysterious Yarns.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 23/08/2009 10:26