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Raven Black (Shetland Island Series #1)
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Raven Black (Shetland Island Series #1)

4.3 32
by Ann Cleeves

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Outstanding Praise for Raven Black

"A fine and sinister psychological novel in the Barbara Vine style. Cleeves is part of a new generation of superior British writers."

—-The Globe and Mail (Canada)

"A riveting read."

—-Val McDermid, author of A Place of Execution

"Beautifully constructed . . . brings alive


Outstanding Praise for Raven Black

"A fine and sinister psychological novel in the Barbara Vine style. Cleeves is part of a new generation of superior British writers."

—-The Globe and Mail (Canada)

"A riveting read."

—-Val McDermid, author of A Place of Execution

"Beautifully constructed . . . brings alive the tensions in a place where everyone knows everyone else and nothing can be forgotten. Raven Black is lively and surprising."

—-Times Literary Supplement (UK)

"Ann's characterization is worthy of the best writers in the field. . . . Rarely has the sense of place been so evocatively conveyed in a crime novel."

—-Daily Express (UK)

"With a cast of well-drawn and convincing characters and an unexpected conclusion, Raven Black is the perfect novel to while away the long winter evenings by the fire."

—-The Tribune (UK)

"Raven Black shows what a fine writer [Cleeves] is . . . accomplished and thoughtful."

—-The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

"Cleeves is a very good writer—-strong on atmosphere, plot and people."

—-The Times (UK)

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a remote Sheltland Islands hamlet, New Year's Eve rings in a dead body for Inspector Jimmy Perez in this 2006 Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award winner. Cleeves lives in Yorkshire, England. A Minotaur First Edition Selection. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

“A riveting read.” —Val McDermid

“Chilling...enough to freeze the blood.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

“Chilling...enough to freeze the blood.” —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

“Deserves the top crime writer's prize in the United States this year. Don't miss this standout.” —Rocky Mountain News

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Shetland Island Series , #1
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.66(h) x 1.15(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Twenty past one in the morning on New Year’s Day. Magnus knew the time because of the fat clock, his mother’s clock, which squatted on the shelf over the fire. In the corner the raven in the wicker cage muttered and croaked in its sleep. Magnus waited. The room was prepared for visitors, the fire banked with peat and on the table a bottle of whisky and the ginger cake he’d bought in Safeway’s the last time he was in Lerwick. He could feel himself dozing but he didn’t want to go to bed in case someone should call at the house. If there was a light at the window someone might come, full of laughter and drams and stories. For eight years nobody had visited to wish him happy new year, but still he waited just in case.

Outside it was completely silent. There was no sound of wind. In Shetland, when there was no wind it was shocking. People strained their ears and wondered what was missing. Earlier in the day there had been a dusting of snow, then with dusk this was covered by a sheen of frost, every crystal flashing and hard as diamond in the last of the light, and even when it got dark, in the beam from the lighthouse. The cold was another reason for Magnus staying where he was. In the bedroom the ice would be thick on the inside of the window and the sheets would feel chill and damp.

He must have slept. If he’d been awake he’d have heard them coming because there was nothing quiet in their approach. They weren’t creeping up on him. He’d have heard their laughter and the stumbling, seen the wild swaying of the torch beam through the uncurtained window. He was woken by the banging on the door. He came to with a start, knowing he’d been in the middle of a nightmare, but not sure of the details.

‘Come in,’ he shouted. ‘Come in, come in.’ He struggled to his feet, stiff and aching. They must already be in the storm porch. He heard the hiss of their whispers.

The door was pushed open, letting in a blast of freezing air and two young girls, who were as gaudy and brightly coloured as exotic birds. He saw they were drunk. They stood, propping each other up. They weren’t dressed for the weather yet their cheeks were flushed and he could feel the health of them like heat. One was fair and one was dark. The fair one was the prettier, round and soft, but Magnus noticed the dark one first; her black hair was streaked with luminescent blue. More than anything, he would have liked to reach out and touch the hair, but he knew better than to do that. It would only scare them away.

‘Come in,’ he said again although they were already in the room. He thought he must sound like a foolish old man, repeating the same words, making no sense at all. People had always laughed at him. They called him slow and perhaps they were right. He felt a smile crawl across his face and heard his mother’s words in his head. Will you wipe that stupid grin from your face. Do you want folk to think you’re dafter than you really are?

The girls giggled and stepped further into the room. He shut the doors behind them, the outside door which had warped with the weather and led into the porch, and the one into the house. He wanted to keep out the cold and he was frightened that they might escape. He couldn’t believe that such beautiful creatures had turned up on his doorstep.

‘Sit down,’ he said. There was only the one easy chair, but two others, which his uncle had made from driftwood, stood by the table and he pulled these out. ‘You’ll take a drink with me to see in the new year.’

They giggled again and fluttered and landed on the chairs. They wore tinsel in their hair and their clothes were of fur and velvet and silk. The fair one had ankle boots of leather so shiny that it looked like wet tar, with silver buckles and little chains. The heels were high and the toes were pointed. Magnus had never seen footwear like it and for a moment he couldn’t take his eyes off them. The dark girl’s shoes were red. He stood at the head of the table.

‘I don’t know you, do I?’ he said, though looking at them more closely he knew he’d seen them passing the house. He took care to speak slowly so they would understand him. Sometimes he slurred his speech. The words sounded strange to him, like the raven’s croaking. He’d taught the raven to speak a few words. Some weeks, he had nobody else to talk to. He launched into another sentence. ‘Where are you from?’

‘We’ve been in Lerwick.’ The chairs were low and the blond girl had to tip back her head to look up at him. He could see her tongue and her pink throat. Her short silk top had become separated from the waist band of her skirt and he saw a fold of flesh, as silky as the material of her blouse and her belly button. ‘Partying for hogmannay. We got a lift to the end of the road. We were on our way home when we saw your light.’

‘Shall we have a drink, then?’ he said eagerly. ‘Shall we?’ He shot a look at the dark girl, who was staring at the room, moving her eyes slowly, taking it all in, but again it was the fair one who replied.

‘We’ve brought our own,’ she said. She pulled a bottle from the woven shoulder bag she’d been clutching on her knee. It had a cork jammed in the top and was three quarters full. He thought it would be white wine, but he didn’t really know. He’d never tasted wine. She pulled the cork from the bottle with sharp, white teeth. The action shocked him. When he realised what she intended doing he wanted to shout to her to stop. He imagined the teeth snapped off at the roots. He should have offered to open it for her. That would have been the gentlemanly thing to do. Instead, he only watched, fascinated. The girl drank from the bottle, wiped the lip with her hand, then passed it on to her friend. He reached out for his whisky. His hands were shaking and he spilled a couple of drops onto the oilcloth when he poured himself a glass. He held out his glass and the dark girl clinked the wine bottle against it. Her eyes were narrow. The lids were painted blue and grey and were lined with black.

‘I’m Sally,’ the blond girl said. She didn’t have the dark one’s capacity for silence. She’d be one for noise, he decided. Chatter and music. ‘Sally Henry.’

‘Henry,’ he repeated. The name was familiar, though he couldn’t quite place it. He was out of touch. His thoughts had never been sharp, but now thinking took an effort. It was like seeing through a thick sea fog. He could make out shapes and vague ideas but focus was difficult. ‘Where do you live?’

‘In the house at the end of the voe,’ she said. ‘Next to the school.’

‘Your mother’s the school teacher.’

Now he could place her. The mother was a little woman. She’d come from one of the northern isles. Unst. Yell, maybe. Married a man from Bressay who worked for the council. Magnus had seen him driving around in a big 4x4.

‘Aye,’ she said and sighed.

‘And you?’ he said to the dark girl who interested him most, who interested him so much that his eyes kept flickering back to her. ‘What do they call you?’

‘I’m Catherine Ross,’ she said, speaking for the first time. Her voice was deep for a young lassie, he thought. Deep and smooth. A voice like black treacle. He forgot where he was for a moment, picturing his mother spooning treacle into the mixture for the ginger cakes she’d made, twisting the spoon over the pot to catch the last sticky threads, then handing it to him to lick. He ran his tongue over his lips, became embarrassingly aware of Catherine staring at him. She had a way of not blinking.

‘You’re not local.’ He could tell by the accent. ‘English?’

‘I’ve lived here for a year.’

‘You’re friends?’ The idea of friendship was a novelty. Had he ever had friends? He took time to think about it ‘You’re pals. Is that right?’

‘Of course we are,’ Sally said. ‘Best friends.’ And they started laughing again, passing the bottle backwards and forwards, throwing back their heads to drink, so their necks looked white as chalk in the light of the naked bulb hanging over the table.

Meet the Author

Ann Cleeves lives in Yorkshire, England.

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Raven Black (Shetland Island Quartet #1) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in a series set in Scotland's Shetland Islands.  The atmosphere, local rituals and language, and tone of a small close community make this mystery uniquely different from other mysteries.  The discussions about the local raven population and the meaning of 'raven black' is quit interesting in and of itself. The body of a young girl is found,  and the search for her killer immediately turns to an older mentally challenged 'strange' man, Magnus Tait, who had been suspected in the disappearance of a much younger girl a few years earlier.  He was born and raised in the Shetlands, but has lived alone since the deaths of his sister and mother a few years ago.  Though the townspeople go out of their way to avoid being around him, young children sometimes miss the 'message' sent by the townspeople and do interact with him. Policeman Jimmy Perez has his own background with this community.  He too was born here but his family's history still makes him 'different'.  When the townspeople immediately decide  Tait is guilty of this new murder, Perez is just not convinced, and continues to investigate the crime. The story that follows involves questioning, intrigue, secrets uncovered, illicit relationships, and twisted surprises.  The Shetland atmosphere and traditions become a major part of this award winning mystery.  A must read to start this series!!
goodwritingcounts More than 1 year ago
As someone who appreciates good writing as much as the plot itself, I'm thrilled to find a new writer and series of books to enjoy. I actually read the first two books of this series out of order, but have thoroughly enjoyed them nonetheless. Her characters are wholly plausible, the location fascinating, and her writing fully immerses the reader in both, capturing the feel of this culture. The only (very slight) negative is that I didn't find the endings totally convincing, but not false enough to be a great disappointment. Overall a very good read...
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Scotland¿s Shetland Islands, an unknown perp strangled teenage Catherine Ross her corpse was found half buried by the snow. The locals including the police believe Magnus Tait killed her as circumstantial evidence is very convincing. He is a strange individual who was the last person known to have seen Catherine alive besides which Magnus has a history when eight years ago he was the prime suspect in a girl¿s disappearance, but most locals feel he got away with murder. --- The only person seemingly to have major doubts that the eccentric Magnus is the killer is Police Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, who leads the investigation into the homicide. Not willing to rule out anyone as the culprit including Magnus, Jimmy begins to look closely at those who knew the victim as a family member, a friend, or intimately. The DI begins to uncover dark secrets that make the Shetlands seem even colder, but one of them has the darkest secret of all: being a killer hidden by a facade of lies., Perez (and readers) wonders which one? --- Readers will quickly understand why Ann Cleeves won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award as she provides a strong Scottish police procedural that keeps the audience guessing until the climax of this enthralling whodunit. The entertaining story line provides a strong sense of place and season especially through the secondary cast. However, the novel is owned by the likable dedicated DI, who methodically battles the cold wintry weather and the increasingly colder suspects seeking to solve the murder mystery to the delight of the fans. --- Harriet Klausner
JP33 More than 1 year ago
Wow! What a thriller! Great character development, could not put it down... this novel was fun and a quick read definitly different and entertaining. A fun, un-predictable read!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A psychological mystery focusing on the inner thoughts of the key characters. Rather dark in that the "good" people are all experiencing personal difficulties and the "bad" people -- well, not surprisingly, they fail to muster sympathy. As the subtitle indicates, this is the first of a quartet of stories taking place on the Shetland Islands. There is some sense of place, but most of the focus is on the personal relationships and inner thoughts of the various characters. Many of the personal difficulties are left unresolved - I presume to be taken up in later parts of the quartet. Fairly well done if you like this gendre. Rather a dark read if you don't care for this type of novel with little to inspire you to read the further works in the series.
TheBookResortNY More than 1 year ago
Ann Cleeves' Raven Black is absolute sheer brilliance contained in 376 pages of absorbing suspenseful entertainment. I was riveted from the gripping start to the pulse-pounding end. Cleeves' literary masterpiece was penned with the precision of a skilled surgeon's scalpel. I was left breathless, perplexed & mesmerized throughout. Raven Black is Cleeves' nineteenth novel and the first in a quartet of books set in the Sheltland Isles. Raven Black infuses a flawless blend of old-fashioned whodunit with a psychological element not captured as adeptly as Cleeves' delivers effortlessly.
Bedelia More than 1 year ago
This is a really good mystery - I was surprised by ending and I read a lot of mystery books. Fast moving and easy to read and understand. Very different setting. Can't wait to read her next book.
Jean55 More than 1 year ago
I would not recommend this book unless you are in the mood for a depressing and bleak story. I didn't even finish it because I found it so depressing. The author seemed to want to focus more on how bad and horrible was the main protagonist . Not engaging to me.
JKW24 More than 1 year ago
Jimmy Perez is the most amazing Police character. His thoughts are intriguing — how he figures out (knows) exactly what happens. He is more like a psychologist. He determines the outcome through a series of thought processes that are out of the ordinary. The Shetlands (a Scottish Island) are described in vivid detail. I felt I was there, freezing, but loving the atmosphere. This is one author I could not figure out who the murderer was. . . not even close until the very end. Since this is the first book of the series, I recommend you start here. I have since read the all but the 2014 DEAD WINTER. I am still unable to determine the murderer in any of them until the final page/chapter. Not sure I could take the different season of no sun and all day (light). 2015 THIN AIR comes out.
nolenreads 3 months ago
I purchased this book at the book store. I enjoyed the read. It started out with a body and a very obvious suspect. I discounted him, of course, but with Ann Cleeves, it's the facts, not the feelings that solve the crime. I love the raven imagery. I am not at all familiar with the Shepherd Islands so I learned a bit about them here. I recommend her books. I'm binge watching the entire Vera series now. LOL!
SheilaDeeth 11 months ago
I have to confess, I saw the television series before I started reading these books. But it’s not a problem, and I strongly recommend this book to any lover of new locations, follower of fascinating characters, solver of mysteries, or avid watcher of Shetland. Raven Black is a mystery driven as much by location as by plot or character. The scenery of the Shetlands is frequently dominated by weather and sea, and the author brings land, air and water evocatively to life. The scenery is part of the mystery too, as it informs and molds a small-town wealth of characters. It’s part of the resolution, as an investigator’s sense of isolation draws him to see below the surface of each character’s story, finally leading to a conclusion that seems as unexpectedly inevitable in the novel as on the screen. No lives are simple, no truths entirely honest, and no dreams without their hints of nightmare here, as the town prepares for a celebration of history that might, itself, be as much a present dream as a past event. Great characters, great scenery, people who interact naturally as neither good guys nor bad, and a world in flux—a small world reminding readers of the larger world perhaps—Raven Black is gorgeously written, enticingly plotted, and a really good read. My husband bought it for me as a gift and I offer my honest review.
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Loved it
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Dude... I was talking about my gf on Rp... I needed advice...
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Lend_me_your_ear More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading both of Ann Cleeves books. While they are not action books and are not particularly suspenseful, the characters are likeable and real, the setting is very different and Cleeves does a great job of imprinting the setting into the characters. The conclusion is plausible.
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