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Raven Black (Shetland) [Paperback]

Ann Cleeves
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (437 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

5 Feb 2010 Shetland (Book 1)

Raven Black is the first book in Ann Cleeves' Shetland series - which is now the major BBC1 drama starring Douglas Henshall, SHETLAND.

It is a cold January morning and Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter's eye is drawn to a vivid splash of colour on the white ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour Catherine Ross. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance . . .

The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man - loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when police 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 neighbours nervously lock their doors, whilst a killer lives on in their midst.

Also available in the Shetland series are White Nights, Red Bones, Blue Lightning and Dead Water. Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope series (ITV television drama VERA) contains five titles, of which The Glass Room is the most recent.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Pan (5 Feb 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330512943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330512947
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (437 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ann Cleeves worked as a probation officer, bird observatory cook and auxiliary coastguard before she started writing. She is a member of 'Murder Squad', working with other northern writers to promote crime fiction. In 2006 Ann was awarded the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for Best Crime Novel, for Raven Black . Ann lives in North Tyneside. Her Vera Stanhope series is currently being turned into a major ITV production to be released in Autumn 2010.

Product Description


'Ann's characterization is worthy of the best writers in the field . . . Rarely has a sense of place been so evocatively conveyed in a crime novel'

Daily Express

'A fine and sinister psychological novel in the Barbara Vine style. Cleeves is part of a new generation of superior British writers who put refreshing new spins and twist on the old forms'

Globe and Mail

'Ann Cleeves won the Duncan Lawrie Gold Dagger for Raven Black and rightly so. It's in the tradition of the small community murder mystery, but done with a depth that infuses this genre with new realism. A young girl is murdered in the Shetlands and an elderly recluse stands accused, as the lives of a complex society become intertwined to a fascinating effect'


'Raven Black breaks the conventional mould of British crime-writing, while retaining the traditional virtues of strong narrative and careful plotting'


'If this sounds like The Wicker Man meets Psycho then that was my initial reaction, but, as the plot develops, this turns out to be an exquisitely original story in its own right. In fact, I was less able to fathom who the "killer" was than in either of the aforementioned films. This is an absolute must for crime drama fans and you'll be kept guessing right up until the last crucial moments on a beach as to who is the real villain of the piece'

Radio Times (about the Radio 4 Saturday Play of Raven Black)

'Raven Black shows what a fine writer Cleeves is . . . an accomplished and thoughtful book'

Sunday Telegraph

'Beautifully constructed . . . a lively and surprising addition to a genre that once seemed moribund'

Times Literary Supplement

From the Publisher

*Winner of the CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award 2006, the biggest crime writing prize in the world*

Previous winners of the CWA Gold Dagger include Sara Paretsky, Val McDermid, Ruth Rendell, Ian Rankin, Minette Walters & Colin Dexter. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
187 of 192 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly Paced and Beautifully Written 19 Mar 2007
This novel won the Crime Writers' Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger for 2006. It is the first Ann Cleeves book I've read, and it won't be the last. It's a neatly constructed crime novel, perfectly paced and beautifully written - the psychological crime novel meets the old-fashioned whodunit.

The novel begins at New Year in the Shetland home of elderly Magnus Tait. A few days later an incomer to the island, Fran Hunter, discovers the body of teenager Catherine Ross in the snow not far from the old man's house. The islanders believe Tait had murdered a young schoolgirl, Catriona Bruce, eight years before and are all certain who must have murdered Catherine. Thrown into this psychological mix is Jimmy Perez, the lonely detective assigned to the case. Jimmy is `emotional incontinent', and you would think he would have trouble suspecting anyone of murder. And yet, slowly but surely, he uncovers the strained relationships and hidden secrets that lead him to the killer.

The sense of place is tremendous - the cold and the isolation are tangible. And the author has captured perfectly the sense of a community seemingly united but with tensions and divisions just below the surface. There are echoes of the cult movie The Wicker Man, with the outsider policeman coming to Shetland to solve the murder against the background of the forthcoming Up Helly Aa fire festival.

There is a fairly large cast of characters, and therefore many suspects, but Ann Cleeves draws each of them well, giving them unique voices of their own. There are clues and red herrings, and I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery before Perez finally discovers the identity of the murderer. And despite my amateur sleuthing, I was completely wrong and satisfyingly surprised when the killer was revealed.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hitting the wall 7 May 2010
By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A modern slick crime thriller set in the Shetlands. On a bleak, windswept and snowy landscape a girl's body is discovered and all suspicion falls upon 'troll' Magnus Tait. As the story develops it appears he may have 'previous' but did he do it?

Ms Cleeves has clearly done extensive research on both the geography and history of the Shetlands, as the novel covers the period between the New Year and the 'Up Helly Aa' celebrations. She has a pacy style with short sentences and punchy chapters that immediately drew me in and the novel sped by.

Well, it sped by until three quarters of the way through, at which point I began to feel like the jockey on board Crisp in the Grand National. The book suddenly meandered and struggled for the finishing line to deliver an implausible and second-rate finish. It is still a good read but not an excellent one.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shetland shivers 3 Nov 2008
By purpleheart TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
'Twenty past one in the morning on New Year's Day. Magnus knew the time because of the fat clock, his mother's clock, which squatted on the shelf over the fire.'

The opening lines introduce a Shetland islander waiting to be first footed on New Year's Eve, even though nobody has visited him for years. The novel quickly sets up both the mystery aspects and the psychological thriller aspects of this story. Magnus has been isolated from the rest of this small island community for years. The novel is partly an exploration of the history of this and whether it is justified. As readers, Cleeves places us like the camera that one of the girl victims held up to this island community - we see the pieces and try to fit them together to solve the mystery. The sense of place is excellent and Jimmy Perez is an intriguing detective that we want more of - so I'm not surprised that this will be the first in a series. Perez is descended from a Spaniard wrecked on the Fair Isles and the novel deals with the themes of heredity and inheritance as well as exclusion.

I found this novel because it won the 2006 Duncan Lawrie Dagger for best crime novel and will now read more Cleeves.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CWA AWARD - CWA ? Cold Weather Alert 7 Feb 2008
Easy to see why this novel won the 2006 Dagger award for best crime novel.
The body of young schoolgirl Catherine Ross ios discovered one morning immediately the close knit community suspect local man Magnus Tait a simpleton who was previously suspected of having killed another girl who disappeared years before on this normally quiet island of Shetland.

Ann Cleeves perfectly paints the picture of the small island where everyone seems to know everyone else's business, the job of solving the murder falls to local detective Jimmy Perez whose hardest job seems to be convincing his team not to jump to conclusions like the locals is perfect any other author and you want bet Perez would be from the city and struggling to deal with this closed community but instead Perez comes from an even smaller more remote island.

There are characters galore and therefore plenty of suspects, I really can't see anyone reading this and guessing the murderer of either of the girls. Is it the same person or someone different ? There aren't that many similarities between the two victims or are there ? Yet when the motives are explained it was entirely plausible.

One other reviewer mentioned The Wicker man and I agree it was something I thought of frequently whilst reading this as much is written on the build on to the Up Helly Aa celebration which seems very similar to the pagan festival in Wicker Man. I think though the book benefitted from not having the outside policeman sent to investigate but instead having Perez already based there.

I note with interest that the author plans to write a Shetland Quartet of novels featuring Inspector Perez with the next White Nights due 4th April 2008. I will certainly by reading that as this was a gripping thriller brilliantly written.

A big story set on a small island
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
1st Class
Published 5 days ago by GRAHAM FOSTER
5.0 out of 5 stars A page turner
Being familiar with Ann Cleeves' work through the excellent Vera series on television, I jumped at the chance to download a Shetland novel on a daily deal. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Chris A
4.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing ending
I enjoyed the book on the whole, but felt that the ending was rather rushed. I think that Ann could have taken a few more pages to discover exactly what happened - what we are... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Pamela Longworth
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
Thought I'd read the book before catching up on the TV shows starring Mr Stan Semple. Nice to read something set in Scotland.
Published 20 days ago by Colin Steele
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling
I can't believe I haven't discovered this writer before, This was an excellent read, Now I have the pleasure of going back and reading all her other novels.
Published 22 days ago by teribar
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking forward to reading othrs in the series.
Couldn't get back to sleep at 4.30 a.m. decided to read one chapter,then another.. ended up finishing the book! I would like to read the next in the series. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Janet Gogerty
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeps you guessing to the end
Black Raven. Whodunits are not my first choice of novel, but of all those that I have read, this is amongst the top. The scene is the Shetland Isles. Read more
Published 25 days ago by John Brain
5.0 out of 5 stars Great series
I really enjoy these books, possibly the Shetland setting has something to do with that but they are all well written and keep your attention until the last page. Read more
Published 27 days ago by M. R. Wallace
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent shtland
Better than the tv. Great read. Brings home life in the wonderful Sumer isles and the challenges that can present
Published 1 month ago by John Turner
2.0 out of 5 stars Very dismal and dour
I found the book dark and dour. Not keen on Scotland if this is how it is! I wouldn't recommend it.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs L Norris
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