To Like or Not To Like?

I have been arguing with myself for some time if, and what, I should write about Ann Cleeves´s Shetland Island crime novels: "Raven Black", "White Nights", "Red Bones", and "Blue Lightning". I have read all the four first novels in one go (there is a fifth, and I expect there will be more) and I am conflicted about them. Most of all, I really like her main man, Detective Jimmy Perez. I dislike what she lets him go through in the fourth book, and judging by the reviews on amazon, I´m not the only one. Nor am I the only one to think that sometimes she crosses the boundary of what is believable in how people behave. It gets just a little too Midsumer Murder-crazy at times, if you know what I mean.

Land´s End - the most treeless landscape in my files.
I suppose reading her has taught me something important about writing. I am still rather upset by what I thought was a violation of the writer-reader contract, particularly considering this is genre fiction, a pretty standard whodunit in all other regards. It is not wrong to test the hero and heroine, to bruise them a little, but there are limits to what I think you should do. And if you must let it all go absolutely pear-shaped, at least have a good reason for it. I could find no good reason for her to do what I can´t tell you she did without spoiling the reading for you, if you plan on taking her on. I am probably one leg over that line, anyway (talking about contracts, huh-hm).

The second thing I learned was how limited my imagination really is. She could write herself blue in the face about what it looks like on the Shetlands, but only after reading the last book did I google images of the islands, and realized that there really are no trees there. No trees at all. I could not imagine it. For me, there is always a tree in the background. Only when she described a character´s uneasiness about standing in what must have been a small, artifical grove, did I understand. I suppose it would be equally hard to imagine plodding through thigh-deep drifts of snow if you live in, say, Kenya. It really hammered into me how important it is to have good characters, and how I, the reader, focus on them, even skimming the descriptive parts (and barely noticing that I do).

Thing is, now that I find there is a fifth book out there, "Dead Water", I really want to read it. Damn. Totally against my will (for I want to punish the author for what she did to Perez, while at the same time I want to see him again). I suppose this is a kind of reluctant recommendation.


  1. i've read none of these and nothing by this author. i've seen this series reviewed on another blog and keep meaning to look for them when i go to the book store. i can see i need to write myself an actual physical note so i'll remember.

    1. I just realized this series is also a brand new tv-series with Douglas Henshall in the lead as Perez (in my mind´s eye he looks more like Neil Oliver, the archeologist); not on Swedish tv yet, though. However, a key character from the books seems to not be in the tv-series at all.

      Cleeves also has a series about Vera Stanhope, on tv with Brenda Blethyn in the lead. We saw one of those episodes, but I didn´t warm up to it, even though Blethyn is wonderful whatever she does.