Series to Savour 4 – Ann Cleeves’ Shetland mysteries

Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves

I’m not sure what it is about the remote, isolated, and beautiful Hebrides that attracts so many readers.  All I know is that it is THIS SETTING that first attracted me to this series and enticed me to read it.  Essentially a police procedural mystery series, the Shetland novels are SO much more.

a scene from the Shetland TV adaptations of Ann Cleeves' novels

a scene from the Shetland TV adaptations of Ann Cleeves’ novels

The protagonist of these novels is Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez.  He and his police colleagues become entwined in the tight-knit island community as they investigate mysterious disappearances, murders and the darkest secrets of Scotland’s most northerly islands. The first novel in the series, Raven Black, was awarded the Duncan Lawrie Dagger (CWA Gold Dagger) for Best Crime Novel.

Jimmy Perez is from Fair Isle.  He was sent to Shetland mainland when he was eleven to go to school (this is a reality for Fair Isle kids – they have to board and don’t even get home at weekends).  His parents assumed he would return to work on the family croft and take his place as skipper on the mail boat, but he joined the police service in Aberdeen.  Working in Shetland mainland is a compromise.  His girlfriend Fran is an incomer – an Englishwoman and an artist.

The seven mystery novels (plus 1 novella and a book of short stories) featuring Jimmy Perez are:shetland-series

  1. Raven black
  2. White nights
  3. Red bones
  4. Blue lightning
  5. Dead water
  6. Thin air
  7. Cold earth

The sixth novel “Thin air” is followed by a book of short stories “Offshore“, and a fast-read novella “Too good to be true“.

If you like to read police procedurals, featuring strong and believable characters in a remote and stunningly beautiful setting, then I urge you to try this great series.  It is truly a “series to savour“.

ukshetlandcolorCongratulations to TV’s Shetland crime drama, which has carried off two Scottish Baftas: when the winners of this year’s awards were revealed, Shetland took the prize in two of the four categories for which it was in the running. Shetland itself won best television drama, and Douglas Henshall, who plays detective inspector Jimmy Perez, was named best television actor.

Douglas Henshall in his role as Jimmy Perez. Photographer: Mark Harrison

Douglas Henshall in his role as Jimmy Perez.
Photographer: Mark Harrison

The BBC had already announced its decision to bring Shetland back for a fourth series. Douglas Henshall returns as DI Jimmy Perez, with other regular cast also returning. The six one-hour episodes (the same format as the brilliant series three) will be broadcast early in 2017.


ann-cleevesBiography from the author’s website:

Ann grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs – child care officer, women’s refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard – before going back to college and training to be a probation officer.

While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person’s not heavily into birds – and Ann isn’t – there’s not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing. Her first series of crime novels features the elderly naturalist, George Palmer-Jones.

In 1987 Tim, Ann and their two daughters moved to Northumberland and the north east provides the inspiration for many of her subsequent titles. The girls have both taken up with Geordie lads. In the autumn of 2006, Ann and Tim finally achieved their ambition of moving back to the North East.

In 2006 Ann Cleeves was the first winner of the prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award of the Crime Writers’ Association for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland Quartet. On 18th October 2012 at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, in the glittering surroundings of Grosvenor House, London, Ann was admitted to the Crime Thriller Hall of Fame – alongside such all-time greats as Colin Dexter, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle!

In 2015, Ann was shortlisted for the CWA’s Dagger in the Library award. The Dagger in the Library is awarded not for an individual book but for an author’s entire body of work, and the longlist is drawn up from nominations submitted by readers. The winner is decided by a panel of judges.

Ann’s books have been translated into twenty languages. She’s a bestseller in Scandinavia and Germany. Her novels sell widely and to critical acclaim in the United States. Raven Black was shortlisted for the Martin Beck award for best translated crime novel in Sweden in 2007. It has been adapted for radio in Germany – and in the UK where it was a Radio Times pick of the day when it was first broadcast Radio adaptations of Raven Black and White Nights have both been repeated. Six series of Vera, the ITV adaptation starring Brenda Blethyn, have been broadcast in the UK, and sold worldwide; there have also been three series of Shetland, based on her Shetland novels.

Ann is currently celebrating the publication of 30 books in 30 years. Her latest book is Cold Earth, a Shetland mystery featuring Jimmy Perez, published in October 2016; her most recent Vera Stanhope novel is The Moth Catcher.

Ann was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Sunderland on Tuesday, July 8th, 2014, in recognition of her outstanding achievements as a crime writer.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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14 Responses to Series to Savour 4 – Ann Cleeves’ Shetland mysteries

  1. Pingback: “The Long Call” by Ann Cleeves – #BookReview @panmacmillan | Fictionophile

  2. Pingback: My personal canon (the books that shaped my life) | Fictionophile

  3. Caroline says:

    It really sounds like the series will get better and better. As I said, I wasn’t totally wowed yet but enjoyed it a great deal and now I already know Fran and Jimmy will get together. I thought they would and like the idea but that’s, of course, only one aspect of the series. When I bought my copy of Raven Black the series wasn’t as long yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. joyousreads says:

    I’m not familiar with the author and her series, unfortunately. But I get the attraction about crime novels set in remote places. The town itself becomes a living, breathing character.


  5. Christine says:

    Terrific post, Lynne. I plan to give this series a go.


  6. FictionFan says:

    Great post! This is a series I’ve been meaning to try for years – in fact, I’ve had Raven Black sitting on my Kindle for ages. 2017 is definitely going to be the year! 🙂


  7. skyecaitlin says:

    Lynne; I had the first novel on my TBR, but I just added the others; the photos, setting and premise are wonderful, and I adore police procedurals, too. Thanks!


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