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.