Raven Black, by Ann Cleeves

When teenage girl Catherine Ross is found murdered in Shetland, suspicion immediately falls upon loner Magnus Tait.  Residents of the secluded village of Ravenswick have not forgotten another young girl who disappeared eight years earlier and who was never found.  Magnus had been arrested – although never charged – for that crime.  In this instance, the dead girl had only moved to Shetland six months earlier and was considered something of an outsider.  Inspector Jimmy Perez is the Officer assigned to the case, together with a team from Inverness.  Perez, who is also considered an outsider of sorts, due to his name and swarthy appearance is determined to get to the bottom of the matter, and doesn’t want to simply blame the most obvious suspect without proper proof.

As he digs deeper into the lives of the residents and starts to uncover secrets, it soon becomes clear that there are several people who may have had the motive and opportunity to kill Catherine…

This is the first in a series of four books set in Shetland and featuring Inspector Perez.  I enjoyed it greatly and will definitely be reading the three further books.  The writing flowed easily and I did genuinely find the book hard to put down.

There were several characters who I felt could have been the prospective murderer, but it did keep me guessing until the very end.  As one would expect there were red herrings and a few subtle clues thrown in along the way – but knowing which was which was not easy!

I have not been Shetland so couldn’t say how accurate the portrayal of life there was.  However, the book certainly created an atmosphere of isolation and mistrust, and painted a picture of a place where everyone thought they knew everyone else’s business.

I have to say that the characterisation was not brilliant.  Perez is well drawn and a very likeable character, but apart from that the character who was brought most vividly to life was ironically, Catherine Ross.  Most of the other characters were rather stereotyped, especially the males.  However, this is definitely a plot driven, rather than character driven book, and the plot was enough to keep me hooked!  I did not predict the ending at all, although I thought I had on a number of occasions!

Despite the subject, this was an absorbing read and one that it would be easy to lose yourself in for a few hours.  Recommended, especially to fans of crime fiction.

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