Ann Cleeves is an award-winning writer Auntie M first became acquainted with in her Inspector Ramsey series. Following that were three DI Vera Stanhope mysteries, and I’ve just read that those have been filmed for TV in the UK with the wonderful Brenda Blethyn playing the rumpled and secure Vera. Watch your Masterpiece Mystery listings down the road for these.

Today’s review is of the fourth installment in Cleeves’ Shetland Island series. The first, Raven Black, won Cleeves the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award, followed by White Night and Red Bones, which have also been reviewed on this blog. The novels feature Shetland Island detective Jimmy Perez and his love, Fran, as well as the inhabitants of the small island. Filled with atmosphere, all of the books give the reader a glimpse of life on a remote island where community traditions are held in reverence and secrets are kept.

With Blue Lightning, Cleeves takes a huge risk, one that this writer is not about to reveal. Suffice it to say that you will be transfixed when Perez takes Fran home to Fair Isle to meet his parents. Strangers are viewed warily, and Perez is worried about the reception Fran will have to endure. The tiny island, famous for its knit sweaters, becomes cut off from the rest of the world when an autumn storm rages. Cleeves does a good job communicating the sense of being trapped, with the high tension this brings. She also informs the reader of the birding world and the passion birders hold for their subject.

Then a woman’s body is discovered at the island’s renowned bird observatory, feathers threaded through her hair, signifying something only the murderer knows. With no support from the mainland, Fran becomes involved in helping Perez as he hunts for the killer.Long-buried secrets within Perez’s own family are revealed during the investigation, calling into question everything Perez thought he knew. What first appeared to be a crime of passion is revealed to be a cold-blooded, planned murder. And then a second body is found . . .

Author Louise Penny called Blue Lightning “nothing short of riveting” and I would have to concur. Don’t miss this installment from a writer willing to take risks, writing at the top of her game.

 

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