Sunday, August 27, 2017

Red Bones and Blue Lightning: Ann Cleeves

When I wrote a post on the first two books in the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves, Raven Black and White Nights, I had difficulty explaining exactly what I liked so much about the books. After having read the next two books in the series, I think it is a combination of good storytelling, good characters, and the wonderful setting of the Shetland Islands. And another big plus is that there is variety in each book.

In Red Bones, Jimmy Perez is called to the small island of Whalsay because his deputy's grandmother has been killed. The death appears to be a tragic accident, caused by a neighbor who was shooting rabbits nearby, but there is still a lot of resentment between the families involved. This book was especially interesting because the focus was on dysfunctional family relationships.

In Blue Lightning, Perez has gone to Fair Isle with his fiancée to see his parents. A reception honoring the couple is held at the bird observatory on the island. The next day, Perez is called in because the leader of the institute has been murdered. Perez is on vacation, of course, but the island is socked in due to weather conditions and there is no one else to handle the situation. I liked the immersion in the birding community (which Cleeves knows a lot about); the ending was very much of a surprise, and makes up for the slow pace of the investigation.

Perez is not a troubled detective but his character is very brooding. He follows police procedure in handling the crimes, but it seems that the resolution of the crimes is solved mostly by intuition. The pace is slow and Perez spends a lot of his time (in both books) thinking about his personal life and relationships.

I like everything I have read by Ann Cleeves. Other than the first four books in the Shetland series, I have read two Vera Stanhope mysteries and two Inspector Stephen Ramsay mysteries. The Vera Stanhope series is my favorite so far, but the Shetland series is very, very good. For mystery lovers who like police procedurals or mysteries with unique settings, I would definitely recommend these books. However, if you are bothered by too much of a character's personal relationships in a mystery, this may not be for you. I am neutral on that topic; for me, it really depends on whether the writer can carry if off.

I read these two books recently because we wanted to watch the Shetland TV series. For some reason, they started the series with an adaptation of Red Bones. The series is different from the books in many ways, but mostly the crime and the resolution is very similar to the books, so I am glad I read the books first. The actor playing Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) is very different from the character in the book, at least physically, and the stories are more like police procedurals, with more focus on his co-workers. Here Jimmy Perez is portrayed as widowed with a teenage daughter. Even with the differences, I enjoyed the episodes very much. Honestly, in the TV series, setting is the big draw for me. I could watch the shows just for the beautiful scenery and a look at life on the Shetland Islands.

More reviews here:


Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2009 and 2010
Length:       392 and 357 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Jimmy Perez, #3 and #4
Setting:      Shetland Islands, Scotland
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:     I purchased the books.


Peggy Ann said...

Tracy, I LOVE both Vera and Shetland TV series, but have yet to read any of her novels! I must rectify that. No more locking myself into challenges, just going to read what I want, when I want! I hope watching the series first doesn't spoil the books for me. Grantchester did ☹️

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Tracy, about the way Cleeves depicts the Shetland setting. It's a major appeal of the series for me. And I think you're right about the characters, too. I like the way they evolve. Glad you enjoyed these two books.

TracyK said...

I think you would like her novels, Peggy. I have not watched the Vera series yet because I want to read the third book first, which is the first one in the TV series.

As far as the TV series spoiling the books for the Shetland series, I would not think so, unless your memory is much better than mine. The characters are a lot different.

I am glad you said that about Grantchester, though, because I was wondering if I should read the book first.

TracyK said...

I don't usually read two books in a series so close together, Margot, but it really worked well this time. Got to see different environments and different communities.

Katrina said...

I've yet to read anything by her, I must rectify that, especially as I'm hoping to go to Shetland soon-ish.

TracyK said...

You definitely should read one of her books, Katrina, and I am very envious of your visit to Shetland. And look forward to photos.

Anonymous said...

Never saw the TV shows, but glad that the books are generally of such high quality - thanks Tracy.

TracyK said...

I always find her books an enjoyable read, Sergio. When I am reading contemporary authors. These books were not too long, but the Vera books are longer. I still like them though.

col2910 said...

I watched Shetland last year, but haven't been tempted to try the books. Probably my loss, but the pile is big enough as it is.

TracyK said...

You probably would not like the books that well anyway, Col. And the TV series is close. Glen was actually the one wanting to watch it, and we still have some to watch.

Anonymous said...

I need to get back on track as I bought one of her Vera Stanhope books and didn't finish due to something else but it was good up to the point I stopped. --Keishon

TracyK said...

I am eager to get back to the Vera series myself, Keishon, but the one I want to read next is not sold here, so I have to put more effort into getting a copy. Soon I hope.

Anonymous said...

I read one of the Vera books, The Moth Catcher," and though it well-written, and a plus because there was no overt brutality, blood and gore. Murders off the page, character development and Vera's investigation and thinking. A relaxing read.

I did not have to think: Oh, no, what violence is coming next? Do I have to skip brutal descriptions coming up?
Is it creepy or scary? All good that the books do not do this.

TracyK said...

You are right, Kathy, good plot and good characterization and atmosphere, and as far as I have read, violence isn't a problem. This month I will be checking the book sale for the next book in the series that I want, and if not there, I will look for it online.

Anonymous said...

I am watching part 1 of the Shetland series, Red Bones. I haven't read any of the books so I don't know the real Jimmy Perez, as written by Ann Cleeves.

I, too, am focused on the scenery and isolation. But I admit that I can't understand all of the Scottish brogues so that I am concentrating on the scenery and thinking that if I find out who the perpetrator is, it doesn't matter that I can't follow the entire investigation.

But I can't lay down and watch this as I have to kind of read lips here. Or else I'll have to put on the subtitles.

TracyK said...

I had the same problem with not being able to understand a lot of the dialogue, Kathy. It may have helped some that the adaptations stayed closed to the plot in the book for the most part. But we are going to continue into the adaptation of the fifth book, Dead Water, which I have not read. So we shall see.

Anonymous said...

On the second mystery on the first dvd, and I caved in and put on the subtitles. Now I have to sit fairly close to the TV to read them.

But I was missing too much. There are a few actors whose voices I can't understand at all. It's surprising to me that there are so many accents in Scotland, but then again there are many in England.

TracyK said...

It is a shame that the accents are so bothersome to you, Kathy. My husband and I keep asking each other... "What did he just say?" And in some cases it helps that I have read the books because I can just interpolate the meaning. I am not sure whether the subtitles would bother me or not.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have to sit fairly close to the TV to read the subtitles and I've also got the sound turned up so I can hear the voices.
So with all of that I can understand the dialogue. Gosh, I'm getting old here.
I like the actor and the character of Jimmy Perez, although I gather he's not like the book's character. It's OK with me since I haven't read any of them.

What will the neighbors think, I wonder.

TracyK said...

I like Jimmy Perez in the TV adaptations too, Kathy, in some ways even better than the one in the books. Just two different experiences I guess. I will be glad when we have time to get back to watching the series.