White Nights by Ann Cleeves: A review

 

The white nights of the title are a phenomenon of the far north in summer when the sun never entirely sets. A truly dark night does not happen, thus "white nights." It is a phenomenon that can be disturbing to human biorhythms, and one can understand how it might make some sensitive people just a little bit crazy. The phenomenon is just a part of life on the Shetland Islands.

Once again Ann Cleeves takes us there and the best part about this Shetland series of hers from my point of view is her evocation of the landscape, the culture, and people of the islands. Her main character, detective Jimmy Perez, is a creation of those islands and that culture and he understands very well the insular nature of the communities and the fact that things may move a bit more slowly here. This is highly irritating to the big-city detective, DCI Roy Taylor from Inverness, who is sent in to lead the investigation of the latest murder on the islands but he and Perez do manage to work together more or less amicably.

The story begins with an elaborate party thrown by artist Bella Sinclair to launch an exhibition of her works at The Herring House, a gallery on the beach. The gallery also features the work of Fran Hunter, the woman with whom Jimmy Perez has a romantic relationship, so Perez is present to support her. The party is disrupted when a mysterious male guest, after looking for a long while at one of the featured works, falls to his knees and begins sobbing. Perez goes to his aid and the man, who is English tells him that he doesn't know who he is and doesn't know where he came from or how he came to be there. Perez takes him outside and attempts to calm him but when he briefly goes back inside and then returns the man has disappeared. The next day his body is found hanging from the rafter in a boat shed. At first, it is thought to be a suicide but Perez is convinced it is murder. 

And, of course, he's right. It is murder. The first murder is followed shortly after by another, Bella's nephew Roddy. We follow Perez's and Taylor's investigation of these murders. Cleeves spins her puzzle out leaving clues along the way, clues that don't necessarily announce themselves to the reader as clues. This is the second book in the series and she is still also developing the character of Perez and the other detectives that he works with.  

The unraveling of the mystery regarding the two deaths leads to the solution to another mystery about a long-ago disappearance. A man had supposedly left the island on his own but his brother had never heard from him again. And now we learn why.

I did not solve this one until near the end. Cleeves really is a master at hiding those clues in plain sight. I look forward to continuing to read the books in this series.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    

Comments

  1. I agree with you: I think one of Cleeves' greatest strengths is her evocation of a landscape and culture. I can't help but think it's due in part to her being a birder. (She's been here to southern Arizona more than once for birding.) If you're out looking for birds, you're going to be quiet and observe the tiniest sounds and movements. That gives you plenty of time to soak up the essence of a place.

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    1. As a birder myself, I am delighted to learn that Cleeves shares that with me. It doesn't surprise me in the least.

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    2. I didn't know Cleeves was a birder either. That's so cool!

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    3. I know! Gives me even more respect for her.

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  2. I've only read about 4 books by this author but, I did enjoy her style and, bonus, I do like when I need to work hard at solving the mystery.

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    1. She's very good at disguising those clues. I'm almost never able to figure out whodunit in her books until near the end. Or sometimes not at all.

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  3. this sounds good. i'll look for her work, tx...

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    1. As you probably know, she has several different series, including the Vera Stanhope that is probably her most popular. And she just started a new one featuring gay detective Matthew Venn. Prolific does not even begin to describe her!

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    2. didn't know, actually... never read her, but i will, now... tx...

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  4. I've only read one book by this author. Thanks for this review. A New one for me.

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    1. Since you read a lot of mysteries, she has an extensive body of work you could dig into, if you are so inclined.

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