Blue Lightning (Shetland Island Quartet #4)

Blue Lightning (Shetland Island Quartet #4)

3.6 12
by Ann Cleeves

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In the fourth book of Ann Cleeves' critically acclaimed series set in the Shetland Islands, Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez brings his fiancée home to Fair Isle, a birder's paradise, where strangers are viewed with suspicions and distrust. When a woman's body is discovered at the island's bird observatory, the investigation is hampered by a raging storm that

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In the fourth book of Ann Cleeves' critically acclaimed series set in the Shetland Islands, Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez brings his fiancée home to Fair Isle, a birder's paradise, where strangers are viewed with suspicions and distrust. When a woman's body is discovered at the island's bird observatory, the investigation is hampered by a raging storm that renders the island totally isolated. Jimmy has to find clues the old-fashioned way, and he has to do it quickly. There's a killer on the island just waiting for the chance to strike again.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Nobody, not even the murderer, can leave the island until the storm clears.

Jimmy Perez, a thoughtful, taciturn inspector in the Highland and Islands Police, takes his fiancée Fran, an artist steeped in London gossip, mores and sociability, home to isolated Fair Isle (think patterned, hand-knit sweaters, fishing, birding and not much else) to meet his parents. Work, however, delays their wedding plans when Angela, the naturalist in charge of the Field Centre, is left with a knife in her back and a wreath of feathers entwined in her hair. Whodunit? The suspect list is limited to the residents of the fogged-in island: Centre administrator Maurice, the older husband Angela was cuckolding; his rebellious teenage daughter Poppy; the assistant island warden; the Centre's lesbian domestic do-it-all; and the couple and two single men, birders all, who came to add to their life-lists. Bored with learning to knit and consume tea, Fran helps Jimmy with his investigation. But there'll be another gruesome death and a sighting of a rare trumpeter swan that makes birders and the media clamor to get to the island before justice, if not peace, prevails.

The fourth and final installment in the Shetland series (Red Bones, 2009, etc.) is bound to create an appetite for its predecessors. Cleeves's updating of the Golden Age setup—a small cadre locked in with a murderer and unable to leave—includes deeply conceived characters, sorrowful familial relationships and a plot just serviceable enough to hold them.

From the Publisher

Blue Lightning is nothing short of riveting.” —Louise Penny

“Chilling...enough to freeze the blood.” —The New York Times on Raven Black

“Riveting.” —Val McDermid on Raven Black

“Cunning… Pulls the wool over our eyes in true Christie fashion.” —Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse mysteries, on White Nights

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Shetland Island Quartet, #4
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
8.80(w) x 11.28(h) x 1.17(d)

Read an Excerpt

Blue Lightning


Chapter One

Fran sat with her eyes closed. The small plane dropped suddenly, seemed to fall from the sky, then levelled for a moment before tilting like a fairground ride. She opened her eyes to see a grey cliff ahead of them. It was close enough for her to make out the white streaks of bird muck and last season’s nests. Below, the sea was boiling. Spindrift and white froth caught by the gale-force winds spun over the surface of the water.

Why doesn’t the pilot do something? Why is Jimmy just sitting there, waiting for us all to die?

She imagined the impact as the plane hit the rock, twisted metal and twisted bodies. No hope at all of survival. I should have written a will. Who will care for Cassie? Then she realized this was the first time in her life she’d been scared for her own physical safety and was overcome by a mindless panic that scrambled her brain and stopped her thinking.

Then the plane lifted slightly, seemed just to clear the edge of the cliff. Perez was pointing out familiar landmarks: the North Haven, the field centre at the North Light, Ward Hill. It seemed to Fran that the pilot was still struggling to keep the aircraft level and that Perez was hoping to distract her as they bucked and swivelled to make a landing. Then they were down, bumping along the airstrip.

Neil the pilot sat quite still for a moment, his hands resting on the joystick. Fran thought then he’d been almost as scared as she had.

‘Great job,’ Perez said.

‘Oh, well.’ Neil gave a brief grin. ‘We have to practise for the ambulance flights. But I did think at one point we’d have to turn back.’ He added more urgently: ‘Out you get, the pair of you. I’ve a planeload of visitors to take out and the forecast is that it’ll get worse later. I don’t want to be stranded here all week.’

A small group of people waited by the airstrip, their backs to the wind, struggling to remain upright. Perez and Fran’s bags were already unloaded and Neil was waving for the waiting passengers to come on board. Fran found she was shaking now. It had felt suddenly cold after leaving the stuffy cabin of the small plane, but she knew this was also a response to her fear. And to her anxiety about meeting the waiting people, Perez’s family and friends. This place, Fair Isle, was a part of who he was. He’d grown up here and his family had lived here for generations. What would they make of her?

It would be, she thought, like the worst sort of job interview, and instead of arriving calm and composed, ready with a smile – usually she could do charm as well as anyone she knew – the terror of the flight remained with her and had turned her to a shivering, inarticulate wreck.

She was saved the need to perform immediately because Neil had loaded his passengers on to the plane and was taxiing to the end of the airstrip to prepare for the return trip to Tingwall on the Shetland mainland. The noise of the engines was very close and too loud for them to have an easy conversation. There was a momentary pause, then the surge of the engines again and the plane rattled past them and lifted into the air. Already it looked as frail and small as a child’s toy, tossed about by the strong wind. It turned over their heads and disappeared north, seeming more stable now. Around her Fran sensed a collective relief. She thought she hadn’t been overreacting about the dangers of the flight. It wasn’t a southern woman’s hysteria. This wasn’t an easy place to live.


BLUE LIGHTNING. Copyright © 2010 by Ann Cleeves. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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Meet the Author

ANN CLEEVES was twice shortlisted for the Dagger Award before winning the first Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award for Raven Black. She lives in Yorkshire, England.

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Blue Lightning (Shetland Island Quartet #4) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Now I know how my children and grandchildren felt waiting for the next Harry Potter book. My husband and I are big fans of the Shetland Island murder mysteries and have learned Ann Cleeves has released the fourth installment, "Blue Ligtning". Let's catch up with the UK and get this book out on the shelves so we can get on with our lives!
AnonMI More than 1 year ago
I gave the book a 3 star not because I've read it, but because a person who wrote a comment told the entire story and the ending which ruined any chance I would purchase and read the book.   Furthermore, the series is ruined for me for any future reading because of that customer review. I do believe that people should be careful of what they write and to give the endingi is unforgiveable.
knaresPF More than 1 year ago
consistent quality as with previous books in the series
MysteryReader More than 1 year ago
I reread the first three books of this series one right after another, before I began Blue Lightening. I couldn't put it down. When I finished I immediately went to Ann Cleeves' website to be sure this was not the final book...but that there will be another quartet featuring Perez. The ending was not what I wanted but I can see how it sets up books to come.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Knitting-MomJP More than 1 year ago
The whole Shetland island series is wonderful,, but this book certainly brings the series' main character full circle! The ending is unbelievable!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hated this last book. Why did she have to kill off Fran. What a stupid and cruel ending.
Colona More than 1 year ago
The conclusion of the Shetland Quartet disappoints me so much that I've thought up a different one that fits the series. As Cleeves's story goes, when Sarah Fowler rushes out of the kitchen, Fran can't break in on Jimmy's meeting, and she feels the irritation with Sarah and the pressure and exhilaration of doing something. As I pick that up, Fran returns to the kitchen. She is stopped from recklessly running outside by the sight of a cooking mitt (and perhaps she burns herself). She experiences a moment of pain and futility and anger which inhibits her from acting: she has intuited that solving the murder is not her role. This, in a sense, is Fran's death. She develops beyond the character of the Pandora, the hubristic, driven mainland British woman who can't survive in Shetland. Instead, Fran begins to realize that she only struggle to survive emotionally in Shetland because she will have to temper her independence, somewhat subordinate the importance of her life to Jimmy's work, and carefully navigate the physical and human waters of an alien place. Fran's growth would add depth to continuing thrillers with Jimmy as protagonist; he would have to deal better, too.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Police Detective Jimmy Perez brings his English fiancée Fran Hunter to his home on Fair Isle to meet his parents and the other residents. A welcoming fete is thrown, but at a bird observatory, someone stabs a woman with a knife to her back and leaving feathers in her hair. The deceased is a famous BBC ornithologist Angela, alleged guardian of the island's bird sanctuary. Perez realizes the victim was universally disliked by those who knew her; even perhaps her husband Maurice. Suspects are numerous ranging from a myriad of lovers, her stepdaughter, her employee and the bird lovers' crowd. Perez struggles on his own due to a hurricane cutting off the island from the mainland. At the same time just before the storm hit, there is an influx of bird watchers due to a rare avian finding. As Perez digs deeper and Fran tries to help her beloved though he pleads with her not to get involved, he fears a tie to his family. The final Shetland Island police procedural (see Red Bones, Raven Black and White Nights) is a super whodunit. The story line focuses beyond just Jimmy's investigation and relationship with his fiancée, as the murder haunts the small community although the victim is loathed by anyone who met her. Jimmy is great as he is cut off from professional help, but though he detests what he is finding, he resolutely stays the course. With a final twist that will stun fans, The Shetland Island saga is a terrific series and hopefully will have more colorful Fair Isle mysteries. Harriet Klausner