Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

And so we continue the actual point of this blog – looking for a classic mystery amongst the multitude of crime fiction written today – with Raven Black by Ann Cleeves.

Jimmy Perez is a recently returned native of Shetland, charged with investigating the murder of the young woman Catharine Ross. Everything points to Magnus Tait, a disturbed local man who knew the girl and was the main suspect when a young girl disappeared years earlier. But as more truths are revealed, and another body is found, it seems that there are several other equally plausible killers on the island…

Ann Cleeves has written over twenty crime novels in a variety of series – you may have seen the recent ITV series Vera, based on some of her work. So, have I found another author to obsess over and bore you, my faithful readers, with while I work through the entire back catalogue?

Let me start out by saying, this is an extremely accomplished book. It won the 2006 Duncan Lawrie Crime Novel of the Year, which is what the CWA Gold Dagger was called at that point, and it justly deserved it.

I mention in my review of The Tolls of Death that there was a problem with multiple points-of-view books. While it does help you to get a real feel for particular characters, it does have an issue with giving the murderer away or forcing the author to, effectively, cheat. Cleeves chooses here to give us the point of view of about five members of the cast, each with their own issues. Most effective are the chapters from Tait’s point of view – an uneducated, disturbed man, it’s fascinating how he sees the world and the events taking place. All the more remarkable is that it’s written in a way so that you believe that he could still be the murderer despite seeing things through his eyes.

As the book progresses, so do the events on the island, until the reveal of the killer – and it is a genuine surprise. I won’t say I guessed the wrong character… because it seemed clear to me that this wasn’t a book where you were supposed to work out the killer, just read along until the detective did.

It reminded me, while reading it, of my experience years ago of reading Val McDermid’s A Place of Execution. It’s a remarkably well-written book, but the ending was a letdown, in that case as I’d guessed the twist very early on. As such, plot-driven as I am, I was disappointed with the book – 400+ pages to get to something that I knew was coming. In this case, I didn’t know what was going to happen but I found myself thinking that if the ending was a washout, I’d feel like I’d wasted my time on this one.

Well, happily that wasn’t the case – as I said, the ending is a real surprise. But I won’t be adding an “Ann Cleeves” tag to the top of the page as, for me, this didn’t have the right sort of mystery for me. Pretty sure that I’ll be coming back to the author though – not being a “classic mystery” didn’t stop it from being a very good book.

About these ads

About Puzzle Doctor

I'm a mathematician by nature and as such have always been drawn to the logical side of things. Hence my two main hobbies being classic mysteries and logical puzzling. Oh, and cats. No logic there, I'm afraid.
This entry was posted in Ann Cleeves, Thriller. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

  1. I did enjoy Raven Black – it was well written and I thought I’d return to the series. Haven’t crossed it off yet, but haven’t been drawn back either…

  2. Bill Selnes says:

    It was interesting to read your review having just posted my own a few days ago. I thought it was a good not great book. I was alittle surprised it was an Award winner. I do plan to read the next in the series.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s