RogerBW's Blog

Blue Lightning, Ann Cleeves 15 March 2020

2010 mystery, fourth in Cleeves' Shetland Island series. Jimmy Perez is taking his fiancée Fran Hunter home to meet his parents on Fair Isle. But over at the Fair Isle Field Centre, tensions among the isolated birdwatchers may be building up to murder.

There are parts of this that work very well. I don't expect nice ephemeral characters in an Ann Cleeves novel, and indeed I don't get them; rather, each person has their embarrassing secret that they'll lie to protect, and each of them is a bit pathetic in their own way. There are plenty of motives for murder. The plot is deceptively simple, resting on a well-hidden truth.

Meanwhile Perez is the only policeman on site when a major storm blows in, so he has to do the initial investigation himself with only occasional telephone contact with the outside world. That works very well, and it's almost a disappointment when more police are able to arrive.

On the other hand, some things happen which left me annoyed. One murder in particular seemed inexplicable both on rational grounds and in the mindset of the murderer; it felt as though it had been wedged in to cause pain, and since it's the murder of a woman in order to cause pain to a man, for my taste that's falling far too close to Women in Refrigerators.

Vg qbrfa'g uryc gung obgu gur frpbaq naq gur guveq ivpgvzf ner jbzra jub jrer "cynlvat qrgrpgvir", obgu bs gurz irel flzcngurgvp punenpgref jubfr shgherf V jnagrq gb ernq nobhg, naq V ng yrnfg tbg n fgebat srryvat bs nhgube'f zrffntr gung jbzra ernyyl bhtug gb fgnl ng ubzr naq yrnir vg gb gur ovt fgebat zra gb qb rkpvgvat guvatf; gur bayl bgure jbzra jr zrrg ner va cnffvir be fhccbegvat ebyrf, rira va gur cbyvpr, rkprcg sbe gur Cebphengbe Svfpny jub'f cbegenlrq irel artngviryl. Gubhtu V znl or bire-vagrecergvat guvf.

In spite of all that, I think this does hold together, though it came close to losing me at times. This is the last of the original "Shetland Island Quartet", though Cleeves has since continued the series; I may continue too, though I think I want a bit of a break from them for now.

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Previous in series: Red Bones | Series: Shetland Island

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