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Raven Black [Paperback]

Ann Cleeves
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 24 2008 Shetland Island Thrillers (Book 1)

Winner of Britain’s coveted Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award, Ann Cleeves introduces a dazzling new suspense series to U.S. mystery readers.

Raven Black begins on New Year’s Eve with a lonely outcast named Magnus Tait, who stays home waiting for visitors who never come. But the next morning the body of a murdered teenage girl is discovered nearby, and suspicion falls on Magnus. Inspector Jimmy Perez enters an investigative maze that leads deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Set in the remote Scottish Shetland Islands, Cleeves's taut, atmospheric thriller, the first in a new series, will keep readers guessing until the last page. Det. Insp. Jimmy Perez investigates the murder of teenage Catherine Ross, found strangled on a snowy hillside shortly after New Year's. While the police and citizens alike are quick to lay the blame on local eccentric Magnus Tait, who was not only the last person to see Catherine alive but also the prime suspect in the disappearance eight years earlier of another girl, Perez has his doubts. He's soon drawn into an intricate web of lies as he unearths the long-buried secrets of everyone from a roguish playboy to Catherine's only school friend. Cleeves, winner of the CWA's Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award (formerly the Gold Dagger), masterfully paints Perez as an empathetic hero and sprinkles the story with a lively cast of supporting characters who help bring the Shetlands alive. When the shocking identity of the murderer is revealed, readers will be as chilled as the harsh winds that batter the isolated islands.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

On the remote island of Shetland, teacher Fran Hunter is walking home when she spots a splash of red in the deep, white snowdrifts, with black ravens flying above. What a perfect picture it makes, she thinks. But on closer inspection, she finds that the "perfect picture" is the dead body of local teenager Catherine Ross, whose red scarf has been used to strangle her. Suspicion immediately falls on recluse Magnus Tait, who was accused--but never convicted--of kidnapping another girl eight years earlier. Policeman Jimmy Perez, assigned to the case, isn't convinced of Magnus' guilt. As he investigates, he uncovers a web of sinister secrets, strange superstitions, petty rivalries, thwarted love, and illicit affairs--the dark underbelly of Shetland's tight-knit community. Cleeves offers up a dark, brutal, suspenseful page-turner that will keep even seasoned mystery buffs guessing right up to the end. Emily Melton
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kept me Guessing Dec 15 2011
By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER
It isn't easy being a single mother to a young child. Fran Hunter strove to do all the right things while raising her daughter Cassie on the isolated Shetland Island. Returning home from walking her to school after the Christmas Holidays, Fran spotted something unusual in a snow covered field. Why was there a splash a red in all that whiteness.

Inspector Jimmy Perez is called in to investigate the murder of Catherine Ross, a teenager and a newcomer to Shetland.

Why do the long time residents of the island immediately suspect Magnus Tait. Yes, the body was found closest to his cottage and he has a well deserved reputation of being the oddest man in the area, but does that make him a murderer.

That's all I can tell you about this story without giving away too much of the plot and the clues to deciphering 'who done it'.

I loved author Ann Cleeves descriptions of the beauty of the area as well as the remoteness. Of students from even remoter islands having to board in town so they can attend high school. Of having to take a ferry or a plane to the mainland for special events. I couldn't help but be intrigued by the people of the town. How could Fran almost be afraid of Cassie's teacher Mrs. Henry. She was a neighbour after all, and since she was teaching primary students, how mean could she be. The Isbister family kept me fascinated with every mention. The father seems to be of mythical proportions and that the sun rises and sets on him, while his son in a ne'er do well who is living off his father's flawless reputation.

I will admit that I thought I had figured out who killed Catherine, several times in fact, but was wrong each time and had no clue when it was finally revealed. Excellent, I love a book that keeps me on my mental toes. I am looking forward to reading the next books in the series The Shetland Quartet.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Raven black April 23 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Not a real page turner. Title was irrelevant. Too many holes in the plot. The reviews were glowing but a disappointment. I may give the author another try will her Vera series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book March 19 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The best place to start the "Shetland" series, and get a good feel for the developing characters. Never been to the Shetland Isles, but Ann Cleeves lets you feel the remoteness!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  159 reviews
114 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RAVEN BLACK Aug. 16 2007
By Sunnie Gill - Published on Amazon.com
Have you ever read a new-to-you author and wondered what on earth took you so long to discover them? RAVEN BLACK is Ann Cleeves 19th novel and I'm wondering why I wasn't aware of her before now. She has two series and a number of stand-alones to her name.

RAVEN BLACK is the first of a planned quartet of books set on the Island of Shetland, one of a large group of small islands to the North of Scotland of which only fifteen are inhabited. It's a small place, easily cut off from the rest of the world if the weather is bad. Everyone knows everyone else and people feel comfortable going out and leaving their house unlocked. This sense of security is shattered when sixteen-year-old Catherine Ross is found one cold January morning lying in the snow, strangled to death with her own scarf. The obvious suspect is old Magnus Tait who everyone knows isn't "the full shilling". Magnus lives alone in the cottage of his late mother and was the prime suspect a number of years earlier when a young girl named Catriona disappeared.

Detective Jimmy Perez is the first investigator on the scene. He grew up on the neighbouring Fair Isle and is familiar with the locals and the way of life. Determined to get a head start before the Senior officer and his team arrive from Aberdeen on the mainland<. ,> Jimmy begins to question the locals. Luckily for Jimmy his senior officer, the driven energizer-bunny Inspector Taylor, is wise enough to recognize that Jimmy's local knowledge is an asset and allows him to have his head. Together they try to unravel the inter-connecting relationships and secrets to discover who killed Catherine.

RAVEN BLACK works well on a number of levels. First off it's a first-class whodunit. All the clues are there if you can figure it out (I didn't). On top of that, the author gives the reader a glimpse of life in a small isolated community. A fascinating layer-cake of things determine attitudes: an unacknowledged hierarchy revolving around how long a given family has lived on the island and their prosperity or otherwise; open secrets that aren't spoken about; the difficulties recent arrivals have in being accepted and a whole host of other things. I could give you examples but that would spoil half the intrigue of the book.

On Ann Cleeves' website (...) Anne has given her reasons for planning on writing only four books in this series. To quote the author "While Shetland couldn't sustain an indefinite series - there are limited plot lines and it would stretch credibility to have too many murders in such a small community - I would like to write more about Jimmy Perez. The islands lie so far to the north that seasonal variation is dramatic. I think Shetland could carry four novels, each set at a different time of the year. It will be like reading about four different places. The pace and flavour of each book will be different, reflecting the season in which it's set."

I shall look forward to Cleeves' next Shetland book with a great deal of anticipation.
68 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mystery With Great Characters July 10 2007
By Rick Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
This mystery is set in the Shetland Islands which gives it a different and somewhat mystical air from the start. But far better than the setting are the plot and the characters.

There is not a cut-out character in this book. From the retarded old man/prime suspect to the police inspector to the single mother divorcee, the teens, one of their mothers and on and on. Every character is drawn with complexity. They are likeable and detestable and they all draw the reader in from the outset. "Knowing" so many characters in a book is rare and makes for a rich novel whether or not it is mystery.

The plot, too, is terrific. Immediately upon the discovery of the body, the town suspects the old man since the population has always "known" he abducted a girl years before. It's a bit too obvious, or so the inspector thinks. As characters enter the scene, every one waves a flag of suspicion. There is motive and opportunity aplenty. Until the very end there is suspense and mystery.

This is a great mystery that deserves the awards that Ms Cleeves won. The police inspector is such a great character - intelligent, calm, conflicted in his personal life (without dark cynicism so popular these days) - that I hope Ms Cheeves brings him out in another novel.
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cold, fascinating read June 15 2007
By Glynn Marsh Alam - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
When I find a book like this, I want to share my enjoyment with the world of readers. It was truly one of the best I've read in a long time. From the first sentence to the last, it held my interest. I've never been to the Shetland Islands but I feel as though I have now. And, the psychological element of the characters is intriguing. Motives for the murders abound, and just when you think you know who the killer is, you're surprised at the ending. Ms. Cleeves has a wonderful writing style. She gives us a cold, but beautiful island populated by people who bring their inner demons to this isolated spot of the world. I'm eager to read more of this author's work.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ann Cleeves rediscovered Aug. 20 2007
By roger hainsworth - Published on Amazon.com
I had temporarily forgotten about Ann Cleeves and that was ungrateful of me because for several years she provided me with hours of rich entertainment. Moreover I once had the pleasure of observing her serving on a panel of writers at a mystery writers' convention (London, 1990). I do not remember the other three panellists, but the total and very entertaining illusion that I was watching an extraordinarily bright, witty sixth former, barely subduing her amusement at the whole business, lives on. She began by writing stories based around `twitchers' - UK-speak for birdwatchers - which were as informed by insider experience as they were well plotted and well furnished with interesting characters. `Twitchers' visit many interesting haunts around the British Isles so it was a well-conceived basis for a series infused with a strong sense of place. Then she launched a new series centred in Northumbria with a regular police inspector to solve her mysteries. These I found even more successful. Now she turns up nineteen novels later with Raven Black, set in the Shetland Islands. Ann Cleeves' sense of place is as strong as ever and I suspect that any readers who have longed to retire from it all among the hills and wild beaches of Shetland will find this book a bracing douche of reality. However, to each their own. Some years earlier a young girl vanished and a local, slightly retarded, loner was suspected, even more by the community than the police. Now Catherine, a sixteen year old schoolgirl, who with her only friend, Sally, had recently called at the earlier suspect's cottage, is found dead with ravens pecking her viciously. Inspector Perez arrives from Lerwick. He is not in charge of the case, but is the local man and the man in the field. An odd man, born on Fair Isle, a tiny island even more remote than Shetland, descended (according to legend) from the survivor of an Armada wreck, almost too sympathetic both of suspects and victims, he doubts the `scapegoat's' guilt. He wanders the community, drinking tea, listening more than questioning. The community has fewer secrets after the passing of this gentle man. Ann Cleeves has matured into a novelist capable of deeply observed characters. I shall rush to catch up on other novels from recent years.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raven Black April 18 2010
By Harrington B Laufman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Raven Black is the first book in Ann Cleeves' Shetland Quartet. The book cover includes a sub comment "A Thriller." While Raven Black is a good mystery, it was not the sort of book that kept me turning pages in suspense, or frightened me. Save for a final chase, the activities of the novel are modest, if sometimes unexplained, daily events in the lives of the characters. While reading, I felt the editing of the book could have been better. There was an occasional awkward sentence or spelling error. That said, the book was an enjoyable companion for the four or so days I carried it for spare time reading.

Cleeves' short chapters frequently jump to a separate thread of the story in what has become a standard technique in modern story telling of stringing together compact chapters ending with revelations/hints/cliff-hangars to hold the readers interest. Her tactic worked, engaging me, but not in the thriller, nail-biting sense. It's a common observation, to the point of being a simple truism, that video production for the theatre, DVD, and television as an end point now shapes many facets of modern story telling. Certainly true for Cleeves; nevertheless, Cleeves' short chapters perfectly fit my current grab-a-few-minutes-here-and-there reading style. I could always quickly finish a chapter before putting the book down knowing that I could later easily pick up the story.

Cleeves captures many of the idiosyncrasies of life on a small island. The urge to get off, the urge to return; the strong identity-dependency friction between locals and strangers; and the surprises of inbred, small town politics and social maneuvering. Her characters have memorable histories which separate them from simple, stock mystery characters.

The mystery revolves around the murder of a young local girl which re-energizes the island's memory of an unresolved disappearance ten years earlier, also involving a young local girl. Are the disappearance and the murder connected? Finally a third girl goes missing when the island is crowded with tourists for an annual island ritual/celebration. Working to solve the murder, Detective Perez probes island history unveiling deep and sometimes awkward connections between island folk. Finally, through his efforts, the surprising solutions to all three events emerge.

Raven Black is definitely worth a summer read. I will try one of Ann Cleave's continuations in the now complete Shetland Quartet.

Harrington Laufman
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