My rating: 3 of 5 stars (aka 7/10)
I read the first “Shetland” book by Ann Cleeves, Raven Black, during a mystery reading binge in 2013. I picked it more because my mother’s family originally came from Shetland and she and my father visited there a couple of years ago to try to track that family, rather than because I picked that book in particular. I enjoyed it a lot and planned to read more in the series eventually.
Then I got the chance to watch the pilot 2 episodes of the BBC TV series, “Shetland”, based by the third book in this series, Red Bones. I liked it very much and decided I would watch more of the show once it screens. I also though I might read the book it was based on. Of course, being me, I have to read the books in order, so I went and bought the Kindle edition of this book and read that first.
Again, I enjoyed it a lot.
Cleeves sets up a good mystery and gives it an unexpected solution that makes perfect sense. She did the same in the first book and, assuming the TV series didn’t stray too far from the source material (and even from reading just one book I could tell it strayed some), then she also did it in the second book.
These are character based books, focused on the main protagonist Jimmy Perez, although we also get sections of the book from other points of view. It’s all very cleverly done and allows the author to drop information from one person that is absolutely correct, but takes on a different shape when seen by someone else or later on when the reader knows more.
I will be reading the rest of the series, but I may give it a little time before I read Red Bones so that the TV version isn’t quite to close in my mind to avoid having the changes made for visual storytelling completely confuse me (something that could easily happen).
I don’t want to spoil the story itself at all, so these are rather general comments, but if you like a solid character-based mystery that has a touch of police procedural without going into great detail, this is a series to try. The setting of a small but spread out community where it is barely light in winter and never quite dark in summer makes for something a little strange and different, but never too different for the reader to relate to the people that live there.