Ann Cleeves follows up the success of her award-winning Raven Black with the second mystery in the Shetland Quartet, White Nights. It would be hard to top the success of that first book, but White Nights is just as outstanding as the first book.
Cleeves takes readers to Biddista, a small Shetland Island community. Jimmy Perez, the local police officer, accompanies Fran Hunter to an art show at Herring House, where Fran is exhibiting a few pieces, along with the local star, Bella Sinclair. However, on this night, it's a stranger who stars in the show when he starts weeping, claiming he doesn't know who he is. When the stranger is found the next day, hanging in a shed, the community isn't too interested in Perez' investigation. Afterall, it was an outsider who died. It takes a second murder to threaten the peace of Biddista.
Ann Cleeves is an expert in bringing the isolated Shetlands to life. In White Nights, the long summer nights with no darkness can drive people into a frenzy. Perez, the islanders, and even the other police who arrive to investigate, find it hard to relax with the light. Cleeves vividly portrays the isolation, and the hardship of life. In this mystery, she almost creates a locked room mystery on an island. Although strangers come and go, there's really a limited group of people, bound together by their history, who could be suspects. And, that history allows them to keep their secrets. Jimmy Perez is skillful at digging into the lives and secrets of people he knows.
What does Cleeves do different that makes these books so outstanding? Perez is an interesting man, unsure of himself in his personal life, but quietly skillful at his job. He's not like most other detectives. And, she has an unusual setting for her books, islands that allow for isolation. That isolation forces her, and Jimmy, to discover the depths of the residents. Cleeves's secondary characters are deeper, and more interesting, than many featured characters in other books.
Readers who enjoy suspense, intriguing characters, and an atmospheric mystery, won't go wrong with White Nights. This one will be on my top five list for the year.
Ann Cleeves' website is www.anncleeves.com
White Nights by Ann Cleeves. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2008. ISBN 9780312384333 (hardover), 352p.