I’ve just finished reading Wild Fire, the last book in the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. It must have been over twenty years ago that I first read any books by her, and they were the Inspector Ramsey stories which do seem very dated now, but are still engaging and intriguing. They are A Lesson in Dying, Murder in My Backyard, A Day in the Death of Dorothea Cassidy, Killjoy, The Healers and The Baby Snatcher. Even with those early books there are unexpected twists, villains who are really just ordinary people who’ve got caught up in something they never intended, and a real puzzle to work out who might be guilty and guilty of what! Even before those novels was a series about a bird-watching couple of amateur detectives, Mr and Mrs Palmer-Jones. I’ve read a couple of those (and think I might have read more when they were first published) but they have not stood the test of time quite as well – and Ms Cleeves was a less experienced writer then, of course!
The next books by her were the Shetland series, and I’ve enjoyed them all – some more than others, and some I think were better than others. The main character is Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez and he is a very different man from the one who appears in the TV series – an outsider and less affable and sociable than his television representation. Despite the fact that in the books an incident happens which is a major annoyance and upset to many readers (in general not specific to the Shetland books) – a major character is killed. I’ve very much enjoyed the books, and the latest and last in the series is one of the best. I am pleased that Ms Cleeves has decided to call it a day with Jimmy Perez, there’s nothing worse than a writer running out of steam and patience with a character – or becoming so fond and indulgent of them that the narratives are skewed.
Ann Cleeves has also written about another detective, Vera Stanhope. I’m afraid i was put off the books by the TV series starring Brenda Blethyn an actress I find really irritating – yes, I know it’s silly to be prejudiced in this way, but I just have no patience with the way she acts… sorry Brenda… So it was quite a while until I decided to actually read – Ann Cleeves books about Vera – and of course they are excellent, gripping, interesting, well-written and with strong characters and locations.
If you haven’t yet read any of Ann Cleeves books then give yourself a treat and do so!