Crime writer, Ann Cleeves, is a newish discovery for me. I read about her Shetland series on several blogs before trying the first book, Raven Black, in May. I liked it a lot and, on a recent trip to the seaside town of Teignmouth, grabbed a copy of book two, White Nights, from their library.
The 'white nights' the title of this book refers to revolves around the fact that the Shetland Isles, where this series is set, is very close to the Arctic Circle and thus experiences hardly any hours of darkness during the summer. Instead there's a kind of permanent dusk all night, referred to as 'white nights'. Residents of the isles feel that this unnatural light almost causes a kind of madness amongst the population.
Jimmy Perez is at an art exhibition, publicising the work of his new girlfried, Fran, (who featured in the last book) and local artist, Bella, when a complete stranger has a breakdown. He professes to have amnesia but Jimmy is suspicious for some reason he can't put his finger on. The man disappears when Jimmy's back is turned and Jimmy returns to the exhibition. Next morning a body is found in a fishing hut and it is the unknown Englishman who caused the scene the night before.
Who is this man? And what did he know about about the inhabitants of the small coastal hamlet of Bidista? Specifically, four people in their fifties who have grown up together, Bella, the famous artist, Aggie, Kenny and his wife, Edith. It doesn't take Jimmy long to realise that there are secrets, not only amongst these four but also amongst their children and Bella's nephew, Roddy. It's a can of worms and Perez is not helped by the fact that, once again, he has to wait for a more senior officer to come from the mainland to help solve the case *and* by the fact that when Taylor arrives he has a hard time coping with the 'white nights'.
I think I enjoyed this more than Raven Black and Raven Black was not at all a bad book. I would call this a pageturner. Ann Cleeves's writing is very readable and pacey with a lot going on plotwise and the reader can't help but keep on turning the pages. Perhaps a lot of crime yarns are like this... I don't know as I'm fairly new to the genre... I just know that some of the crime authors I've come to love seem to write these kind of compulsive reads!
One of the things that appealed to me particualarly was the use of secrets in the plot. I do love a story where all is not as it seems and the characters have deep dark secrets that the reader has to try and guess at. I have to admit that I guessed who'd done the deed very early on. It didn't spoil my enjoyment because, of course, I had no idea if I was right, but I also wanted to know the background and reasons for the crime. Sometimes that can be more interesting than who the culprit actually is and the whole thing was skilfully handled, in my opinion.
My only other comment is how much I love the setting of the Shetland Isles. I've never been lucky enough to go but, judging from the beauty of Ann Cleeves's descriptions, it's a bleak but hauntingly beautiful place and I would love to visit one day. Maybe not in the summer though...