About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

67. – 627.) Raven Black by Ann Cleeves – The Shetland Islands had been a distant place for me somewhere north of Scotland until I read Raven Black. As with the best mysteries I now have a sense of those far away islands.
            It is mid-winter in the Shetlands. Snow has blanketed the islands. It is cold. On New Year’s Eve Catherine Ross and Sally Henry, 16 year old girls, drop in on Magnus Tait, a senior living a reclusive lifestyle. It is a minor adventure for the girls to enter his home. While Tait is a simple man he has a disquieting reputation. Having grown up in rural Saskatchewan I am familiar with each person acquiring a reputation in the community.
            Shortly after Catherine is found slain in the snow near Tait’s home. The description of the lovely young woman lying on the brilliant white snow with the killing red scarf around her throat “the fringe spread out like blood” was a cold striking image.
Community suspicion is focused on Tait just as it had 8 years previously when Catriona Bruce had disappeared. While never charged the islanders have remained suspicious of Tait.
            Detective Jimmy Perez starts the investigation and is immediately joined by a team sent from Inverness led by Roy Taylor. The investigation concentrates on Tait but Perez is skeptical.
            The Shetlands were a closed community which has been forced open by the oil boom. There is continuing tension between the generational islanders and the incomers who have recently arrived on the islands.
            Though an incomer, Catherine, had fitted more easily into Anderson high school than the islander, Sally. I found it interesting that the parents of both girls feature prominently in the plot.
            Fran Hunter is an incomer who has married and separated from the charismatic islander, Duncan Hunter. She is trying to adapt to island life with her daughter, Cassie.
            Perez has grown up on the even more distant Fair Isle. (Can there be a more romantic name for a place?) Over 20 years later he is still affected by having to leave the island and go to Lerwick to live in a hostel when he was 12 to attend school. I went away to a boarding school when I was 15. I can relate to the loneliness and difficulty fitting in for a shy boy gone away from family and farm for schooling. It may be a challenge for those who have grown up in cities but I did not find life on the farm more isolating than my subsequent residences in urban places.
            As winter and the investigation progress the focus of island life is on the annual celebration of their Norse heritage, Up Helly Aa. It is the most important winter event.
            It took me some time to get involved in the book but I was glad I kept going as I became more and more intrigued by the characters. The conclusion was a breathtaking rush.
            I know I shall return to the Shetlands for more of the series. Excellent. (Dec. 10/11)


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one Bill. Thanks for remind me I have White Nights in my TBR.

  2. Jose Ignacio: Thanks for the comment. I look forward to seeing a review of White Nights.

  3. This is the second review I have read of Raven Black today. It has turned into one of my favourite series, but I know that part of the attraction is the remote setting. I might not enjoy a real storm there, but I just love reading about it :)

  4. Dorte: Thanks for the comment. In Saskatchewan we can expect a blizzard or two every year. As long as the power stays on and the furnace is working it is a unique feeling to watch the storm around you.