RAVEN BLACK BY ANN CLEEVES

A Review by Martin Edwards


Ann Cleeves has been publishing excellent crime novels, mainly set in rural Britain, since the late 1980s, but it is only in recent years that she has begun to receive the acclaim that the quality of her work has long merited. She has been nominated for a couple of CWA Daggers in the past and now this, her latest novel, has been short-listed for the CWA’s recently re-branded Duncan Lawrie Dagger – formerly the CWA Gold Dagger and said to be the most lucrative prize in the history of international crime fiction.

At the time of writing this review, the winner of the Dagger was not known, but it may safely be said that this book well deserved its nomination The setting is Shetland in winter-time and two teenage girls are amusing themselves at the expense of Magnus Tait, a strange old fellow who keeps a raven for company. Soon the body of one of the girls, Catherine Ross, is found in the snow by Fran Hunter, who has returned to the island with her daughter Cassie. The investigation into Catherine’s murder is conducted by local detective, Jimmy Perez, and his restless colleague Roy Taylor – two excellent characters - but many of the events in the story are seen from the points of view of Fran and of Catherine’s friend, Sally Henry.

Years earlier, another young girl, Catriona Bruce, went missing and when her corpse is finally discovered – again by Fran – the pace of the narrative accelerates to a stunning conclusion. The unusual Shetland setting is vividly conveyed, with a terrific set-piece scene involving the fire festival Up Helly Aa. The plot is conceived with Ann Cleeves’ customary teasing skill and once the truth is revealed it becomes clear how much vital information – and insight into character - was conveyed in the leisurely but subtle early chapters. It is good to know that her publishers have commissioned three more books in the same series. The Shetland Quartet promises, on this evidence, to be a terrific addition to contemporary crime writing.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Martin Edwards’ acclaimed Lake District Mysteries are The Coffin Trail (nominated for the Theakston’s prize for best crime novel of 2006) and The Cipher Garden. Both are published in the US by Poisoned Pen Press. His seven novels about Harry Devlin include All the Lonely People, short-listed for the CWA John Creasey Memorial Dagger, and Suspicious Minds, both published by Five Star in the US. The author of a stand-alone psychological thriller, Take My Breath Away, he also completed the late Bill Knox’s last book, The Lazarus Widow. In 2002 he published a book about homicide investigation, Urge to Kill.

He has edited 14 crime anthologies, such as the CWA’s Golden Jubilee collection, Mysterious Pleasures, and contributed to many others, as well as publishing Where Do You Find Your Ideas? and other stories. His story ‘Test Drive’ was short-listed for the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2005. A well-known critic and commentator on crime fiction, he has contributed essays to various reference books, including The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing, as well as to a wide range of magazines.

To find out more about Martin Edwards and his work, visit www.MartinEdwardsBooks.com. Martin also writes for Mystery Scene and Deadly Pleasures.


Return to Summer 2006 Table of Contents

© 2006 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved
FEATURED BOOKS