Blue Lightning

Blue Lightning (Shetland Island, #4)Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one probably needs to be read in order. The first three, not so much, but this one has a clear ending to the original quartet. Still, life goes on – there are three more books (at the present moment) after this one. I won’t say more than that, except that I’ve taken off one star for the authors continued propensity to wrap everything up in one big data dump, as Jimmy explains his suspicions, and how he knew what he knew. For the rest of us, it is a little frustrating to not have all the pieces allowing us to reach our own conclusions. But I’ll still give her high marks for setting and atmosphere.

Note on the TV series: The “fiancé” has been left out of the TV series entirely, so it is much changed from this story. And the rest of the series is not taken from the books.

Book description: Inspector Jimmy Perez takes his fiancé home to Fair Isle, the tiny island he comes from, to meet his parents. The island is a magnet for bird watchers, who congregate at the local inn and lighthouse. When a local married celebrity, who had an eye for the lads, is murdered, Perez discovers that the suspects are very close to him indeed.

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A Weekend with Mr. Darcy

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy (Austen Addicts, #1)A Weekend with Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A quick, fun read (even though it took me 3 months to read…) – light-hearted, cozy Austen fan fiction. Called the first of a trilogy, there are now 6 in the series. Don’t expect any great wit or social commentary, but there are plenty of references to Austen novels, Austen characters, Austen movies, etc. No explicit sex – this could be read by your age-13 teenage daughter. There are two love stories – the college professor, Katherine, an Austen scholar, who secretly loves the bodice-rippers of Lorna Warwick, and has carried on a correspondence with her – not knowing she is a he. When she meets him at a Jane Austen conference (not knowing his secret identity) and falls in love – well, you know it isn’t going to turn out well when she does find out… And then we have the young secretary who comes to the conference, followed by her long-time boyfriend that she is trying to ditch. He crashes the conference in several humorous scenes, and surprises her with a very public marriage proposal, but Robyn has fallen for the brother of Dame Pamela, whose home is the setting for the conference. I didn’t find a lot of sympathy for Katherine – she came off as rather cold – and Warwick bordered on TSTL. But Robyn’s story – stuck in a dead-end relationship out of guilt and not knowing how to move her life forward – was sweet and satisfying. For both of them the answers boil down to “What Would Jane Austen Do?” Shallow and sappy, but I just might try another in the series.

Book description: Of course she’s obsessed with Jane Austen…Surrounded by appalling exes and fawning students, the only thing keeping professor Katherine Roberts sane is Jane Austen and her personal secret love for racy Regency romance novels. She thinks the Jane Austen Addicts conference in the English countryside is the perfect opportunity to escape her chaotic life and finally relax… But then she encounters a devilishly handsome man at the conference who seems determined to sweep her off her feet. Is he more fiction than fact? Or could he be the hero she didn’t know she was looking for?

Red Bones

Red Bones (Shetland Island, #3)Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best so far, but I love stories involving archeology and family history. Jimmy Perez is again the backbone of the novel and the one who ends up solving the crime(s), but the real focus this time is on his young colleague, Sandy. Fran Hunter, Jimmy’s love interest, is mostly absent, but much in his thoughts. Like the first two books, atmospheric and slow-burning. I wouldn’t quite call them thrillers. If I have one criticism, it is that the author tends to present us with an info-dump at the end to reveal who done it. Despite having previously seen the TV show, I didn’t remember and the reveal was a complete surprise. I have already downloaded the 4th book in the series. Now I need to go back and watch the first season of the TV series again. [Update: No wonder I couldn’t remember who done it… the TV version changed it!]

Book description: When a young archaeologist discovers a set of human remains, the locals are intrigued. Is it an ancient find—or a more contemporary mystery? Then an elderly woman is fatally shot and Ann Cleeves’s popular series detective Jimmy Perez is called in. As claustrophobic mists swirl around the island, Inspector Perez finds himself totally in the dark.

White Nights

White Nights (Shetland Island, #2)White Nights by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Decisions…decisions. About the same as the first book, but I rounded up this time, just because. I actually think I liked Raven Black better – the mystery was a little tighter, and the sense of suspense and danger was higher. I love the setting, the atmosphere, the descriptions. I guess we have an omniscient narrator, because, like the first book, we have multiple points of view and get into everyone’s head. The relationship between Jimmy Perez and Fran Hunter is developed, but otherwise, I felt the focus was less on Perez and more on his off-Islander colleague. Still, Perez beats him to solving the crime(s) because of his knowledge of and relationships with the Islanders. The TV series has taken the books out of order, and I don’t think it is essential to read them in order either.

Book description: It’s midsummer in the Shetland Islands, the time of the white nights, when birds sing at midnight and the sun never sets. Artist Bella Sinclair throws an elaborate party to launch an exhibition of her work at The Herring House, a gallery on the beach. The party ends in farce when one the guests, a mysterious Englishman, bursts into tears and claims not to know who he is or where he’s come from. The following day the Englishman is found hanging from a rafter, and Detective Jimmy Perez is convinced that the man has been murdered. He is reinforced in this belief when Roddy, Bella’s musician nephew, is murdered, too. But the detective’s relationship with Fran Hunter may have clouded his judgment, for this is a crazy time of the year when night blurs into day and nothing is quite as it seems.

Raven Black

Raven Black (Shetland Island, #1)Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Previous review (Sept. 2015): Originally intended to be a quartet, there are now 6 in the series. 3.5 stars and I can’t quite round up to 4, but I’ll continue with the series. The setting is interesting, though I didn’t feel like I saw enough of it. It has been made into a TV show in Britain, and I think seeing the locale would help a lot. Like most of the main characters, I felt like an outsider looking in. I liked the shifting points of view – it helped keep the suspense. Everyone seemed unreliable and a possible suspect. All except the old man, Magnus, who had been already convicted in the minds of the townspeople. I also did not feel like I knew much about the inspector, Jimmy Perez, by the end. So there is plenty more to be learned in the rest of the series. It definitely shows promise.

Update: 2nd reading on audio CD- This is after watching the TV series called Shetland on PBS. While the TV show takes liberties, it also has added familiarity to this reading. I didn’t feel so much like an outsider. And perhaps because I pay more attention when listening vs. reading, I picked up more of the back-story on Jimmy. The shifting points of view didn’t work as well in audio, so all in all, my rating remains the same.

Book description: Raven Black begins on New Year’s Eve with a lonely outcast named Magnus Tait, who stays home waiting for visitors who never come. But the next morning the body of a murdered teenage girl is discovered nearby, and suspicion falls on Magnus. Inspector Jimmy Perez enters an investigative maze that leads deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.