Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pg. 99: Ann Cleeves's "Raven Black"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Ann Cleeves's Raven Black.

About the book, from the publisher:
Long a celebrated crime writer in Britain, Ann Cleeves’ fame went international when she won the coveted Duncan Lawrie Dagger for this amazing suspense novel, Raven Black. Like Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse or Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks, Cleeves’ new detective, Inspector Jimmy Perez, is a very private and perceptive man whose bailiwick is a remote hamlet in the Shetland Islands.

It is a cold January morning and Shetland lies beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter’s eye is drawn to a splash of color on the frozen ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbor, Catherine Ross.

The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man -- loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when detective Jimmy Perez and his colleagues from the mainland insist on opening out the investigation, a veil of suspicion and fear is thrown over the entire community. For the first time in years, Catherine’s neighbors nervously lock their doors, while a killer lives on in their midst.
Among the praise for Raven Black:
"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."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Cleeves offers up a dark, brutal, suspenseful page-turner that will keep even seasoned mystery buffs guessing right up to the end."

"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 nineteenth novel and I'm wondering why I wasn't aware of her before now."
--Sunnie Gill, Eurocrime

"Cleeves writes with an easy directness that brings alive the tensions in a place where everyone knows everyone else and nothing can be forgotten... With the bare but beautiful landscape, painful family relationships as well as good ones, and the emotional torture of the simple-minded Magnus, Raven Black is a lively and surprising addition to a genre that once seemed moribund."
--Natasha Cooper, Times Literary Supplement

"Ann Cleeves has written a lot of crime novels and collected many admirers without making the kind of headlines that some less skilful authors have achieved. Raven Black shows what a fine writer she is when on top form... The revelation of the murderer's identity comes as a surprise, but then seems obvious - a clever piece of characterisation and a satisfying end to an accomplished and thoughtful book."
--Susanna Yager, Sunday Telegraph

"Cleeves is a very good writer - strong on atmosphere, plot and people."
--Marcel Berlins, The Times

"Cleeves creates a convincing world of hostility against outsiders, of genuine ancient feuds but pseudo-history for the tourists, of small snobberies and major jealousies. Raven Black breaks the conventional mould of British crime-writing, while retaining the traditional virtues of strong narrative and careful plotting."
--Jane Jakeman, Independent

Ann Cleeves was twice shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award before winning the first Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award last year for Raven Black.

Visit Cleeves's website and her online diary.

The Page 99 Test: Raven Black.

--Marshal Zeringue