Raven Black, Ann Cleeves

Raven Black:

Book One of the Shetland Island Quartet

Cover of "Raven Black: Book One of the Sh...

Cover via Amazon

Author: Ann Cleeves

First Edition: 2007, Minotaur Books

Original language: English


Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award for the best crime novel of the year.


The story opens in the home of Magnus Tait, on New Year’s Day in the Scottish Shetland Islands.  A short time later, Fran Hunter, a young recently divorced mother, discovers the body of Catherine Ross, a neighborhood teenager who has been murdered.

The investigation into Catherine’s murder uncovers the secrets that the residents of the remote island have been trying to avoid.  At first, the finger is pointed at Magnus, but the detectives in charge of the case discover that Catherine’s murder is far more complicated than it seems.


“This place you couldn’t fart without the whole of Shetland knowing about it.”

“But you know how it is with parties.  Good parties, at least.  You get into an interesting conversation and everything around you fades into the background.”


Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

–       Robert Frost

The above poem by Robert Frost is heavily featured in the novel.  As in the poem, Cleeves incorporates the local culture around fire and the island’s cold and barren landscape into the story.  It felt like Shetland was another character in the book.  I liked the contrast between the stark and icy landscape and the fire featured in the Up Helly Aa festival.

This was a pretty entertaining read.  I didn’t figure it out until the end.  It was well written and the characters were interesting.  I like the older female characters that Cleeves creates in her novels.

Up Helly Aa:

Up Helly Aa festival

Up Helly Aa festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Up Helly Aa is billed as “Europe’s largest fire festival.”  http://www.uphellyaa.org.  The festival takes place on the last Sunday in January in Lerwick, where parts of the novel are set.  There are torch-lit processions and the burning of a galley.  For more information on Up Helly Aa, see: