Raven Black (Shetland Island Series #1)

Raven Black (Shetland Island Series #1)

by Ann Cleeves

Paperback(First Edition)

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The basis for the hit series "Shetland" now airing on PBS.

Winner of Britain's coveted Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award, Ann Cleeves introduces a dazzling new suspense series to U.S. mystery readers.

Raven Black begins on New Year's Eve with a lonely outcast named Magnus Tait, who stays home waiting for visitors who never come. But the next morning the body of a murdered teenage girl is discovered nearby, and suspicion falls on Magnus. Inspector Jimmy Perez enters an investigative maze that leads deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312359676
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/24/2008
Series: Shetland Island Series , #1
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 36,989
Product dimensions: 5.48(w) x 10.86(h) x 1.01(d)

About the Author

ANN CLEEVES is the multi-million copy bestselling author behind two hit television series—the BBC’s Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall, and ITV’s Vera, starring Academy Award Nominee Brenda Blethyn—both of which are watched and loved in the US. Her brand new Two Rivers series will launch in September 2019, with The Long Call.

Shetland is available in the US on Netflix, Amazon Video, Britbox, and PBS, and Vera is available on Hulu, Amazon Video, BritBox, and PBS.

The first Shetland novel, Raven Black, won the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel, and Ann was awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger in 2017. She lives in the UK.

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.

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Raven Black (Shetland Island Quartet #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 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.
nocto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the beginning I thought this was a bit slow and expected it to stay very cosyish. In the end I loved it and can't wait to read the second volume! It's not at all cosy and rather dark in many ways. I think it's a "quartet" rather than a "series" so I'm hoping that the story arcs begun in this first book are going to go somewhere good.
gilly1944 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very atmospheric book evoking the the Scottish island scene. The characters have depth and the plot is great with an unexpected ending.
Risa15 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in the Shetland Islands, this is a well written mystery about a teenage girl who is found strangled. The town implicates Magnus who is somewhat impaired because several years ago a young girl went missing and he was the main suspect The detective handling the case is a very nice guy and with the help of another detective from out of time solves the case.
yosarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great mystery set in the Shetland Isles, the atmosphere of the small community is perfectly portrayed as Ann Cleeves beautifully describes the characters and their lives. The story centres on a murdered girl and the impact this has on the small village where everyone not only knew her but knows everyone else. Everyone could be a suspect and it's up to local detective Jimmy Perez to get to the bottom of it. Old suspicions and grudges come out and initially a local man, Magnus Tait, who has withdrawn from society is suspected of commiting the crime. But as we follow Jimmy Perez try to piece together the dead girl's last days it seems more and more people have motives and opportunity to have murdered Catherine Ross.There are plenty of red herrings and clues along the way to keep even the most avid crime fan and amateur armchair detective happy. A great introduction to Ann's writing.
nicx27 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A teenage girl, Catherine Ross, is found murdered in the Shetland Isles, and Detective Jimmy Perez is called on to investigate. A local man, loner Magnus Tait, is suspected of the murder, but there appears to be more to this case than meets the eye.This is a very well-written crime story, with a wonderful, sometimes bleak, backdrop of the Shetlands. This ended up being a very topical time to read it too, with it being set at New Year and there being snow on the ground. I didn't really feel that some of the characterisations were properly filled out, but it didn't seem to matter as the book flowed very well. Throughout the book I really had no idea 'whodunnit' and right up to the conclusion I still hadn't guessed. I suppose you could say this is the mark of a good crime novel. I'll certainly be reading the next in the series, White Nights.
catherinestead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The body of a teenager is found lying in the snow. The whole community thinks they know who is responsible ¿ the same man they also consider responsible for the disappearance of another girl some years earlier. As the effects of the girl¿s death ripple out into the community, old secrets come to light.A tense and subtle story. Cleeves cleverly shows the personalities and relationships in a way which hints that there is always more than the reader can quite grasp. Every portrayal is subjective, and every character has secrets or thoughts that they are trying ¿ not always with much success ¿ to hide. Detective Jimmy Perez is an appealing and rounded character, and a quietly competent detective. The reader is never quite sure who is truthful, and what is true ¿ and never sure, either, who is responsible for the crimes. The layers of personality and community are carefully described and delicately peeled away to reveal an astonishing and dramatic conclusion. I was absolutely hooked on this story, and suspicious of almost everyone. The tension and drama wound tighter and tighter as the story neared its conclusion, and I felt absolutely compelled to keep reading. (When a reader picks up a book over their Saturday breakfast and continues reading in their pyjamas until lunchtime, unable to put the book down long enough to shower and get dressed, the author is doing a very good job.) I was very surprised by the final revelations, and very impressed by the skill with which the author concealed and yet hinted at the truth throughout the book.
arkgirl1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book in a quartet set in the Shetlands and features an intriguing Inspector, Jimmy Perez, who has a quiet contemplative approach to policing. A young girl is found in the snow close to the house of a recluse who many locals feel was responsible ... This book has satisfying twists and turns, a few annoying coincidences, and ultimately is a satisfying crime novel with an excellent sense of place.
troygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was well written and the mystery was totally intriguing. I had lots of theories throughout but was completely blown away by the ending.
lincroft on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked it. Cleeves made so many suspicious characters that it really could have been anyone who commited the murder and it was a surprise.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When the body of a local teenager is discovered in a field near her home, the whole community is sure that her mentally challenged neighbor, Magnus Tait, is responsible for her murder. Although Tait is a strong suspect, Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez isn't content to settle with the most obvious explanation for the crime. Several characters claim it is impossible to have any secrets in a place as small as the Shetland Islands, where most residents are connected by family and/or social ties. Nevertheless, almost every major character, including the victim, has secrets for Perez and the investigators to uncover. I've read enough mysteries that I can usually identify the guilty party before I reach the end of the book. This one surprised me!While the Shetland Islands are part of Scotland, there is also a strong Norse historic and cultural influence. Lerwick's annual Up Helly Aa festival (think Mardi Gras) features prominently in the novel. I was so drawn into the location that the first time I left my house after I finished the book, I was mildly surprised to find my own neighborhood looking the same as usual!Fans of P. D. James and Ruth Rendell would probably enjoy this novel. Although this is not a cozy mystery, cozy readers looking for something a little different would probably enjoy it as well.
ParadisePorch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first Ann Cleeves work that I¿ve read and, once again, I praise the web-site Fantastic Fiction where I can find out what series an author has written and the chronological order of the books in each; and our public library system which allows me to borrow from other library systems in our province ¿ in this case, it was the Annapolis Valley Regional Library that lent me this book.The Shetland Islands seem a romantic setting for a murder that is decidedly unromantic. Cleeves draws the Shetland island community as closed and suspicious of outsiders, as it likely is¿much like most other islands around the world.If guilt for this murder has to be pinned on someone local, then simpleton Magnus Tait is the obvious choice. Most people in the community have already decided he was responsible for the disappearance of a young girl eight years previous. But the reader knows Magnus didn¿t do it ¿ or did he?The setting is a little bleak, the detective a little low-key, the subject matter a little dark (but not as taut as, say, a Kathy Reichs serial killer novel), but the plot advances steadily and evenly and there are plenty of clues to the identity of the murderer. But, since there¿s also plenty of red herrings, it¿s unlikely you¿ll figure out who it is until the end of the book. Cleeves manages to make nearly everyone in the area appear to be a possible suspect. In my mind, that is one of the marks of a really good mystery. And this is one.I¿d like to read the other four books in this series (White Nights, Red Bones, and Blue Lightning). Recommended for mystery fans.A solid four out of five stars.
mks27 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An well written mystery with lots of possible guilty parties. The characters are well developed and their back stories are interesting. The book moves a bit slowly until the end, however the setting of the Shetland Islands and their unique culture and island life makes this novel worth the read.
andsoitgoes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very well written suspense novel that will leave you guessing until the very end. Love the depiction of Scotland and could really feel the isolation of the island life.
kcadd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There were a few coincidences, and no surprise twists, but I really enjoyed the author's descrition of the scenery of the Shetland islands. I wanted to visit there after reading the book. I look forward to reading the sequels.
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The body of a teenager is found near the home of a somewhat "slow" man named Magnus Tait who is widely believed to have murdered another teen eight years earlier although no convincing proof was never found and he was never charged. Inspector Jimmy Perez uses his knowledge of the locals as he and the investigators from the mainland set out to discover who is responsible for both murders.Just about everyone in the book had some motive or opportunity to have murdered the young girl. The conclusion of this book was completely unexpected to me as I had never seriously considered this person a suspect. Cleeves is a great writer, and I look forward to reading White Nights in the near future.
blockbuster1994 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a fun read and although I was derailed by other life activities, I throughly enjoyed the story. The atmosphere and mystic of the Shetland Islands were a welcome experience. I found Cleeves to be descriptive, but not overbearing. Her characters were well developed. I will certainly read her next work.