I recently read the last two of Ann Cleeves Shetland mysteries, featuring detective Jimmy Perez. Cleeves is better known for her series featuring the cranky Vera Stanhope, but these Shetland books are equally fine. (There’s a TV series for these as well.) It’s fun to think about the Shetland Islands in January. They’ve just finished the 2019 version of Up Helly Aa, a festival designed to break up the winter with lots of fire and a lot of men dressed up as Jarls (Viking lords.) You can see some of this year’s festivites at this link: Up Helly Aa
Jimmy Perez grew up on Fair Isle – famous for its sweater patterns – just off the main Shetland archipelago. His name is another nod to the history of these islands that bridge the Atlantic and the North Sea, as “Perez” got there from the Spanish traders that came up that far centuries ago. Cleeves’ stories weave the history of these islands into the daily lives of modern Shetlanders and the ways in which human evil and harship is present anywhere in the world.
I’m sorry she ended this series this year with book number eight, and I don’t think it will be a spoiler to say that the ongoing story through the books comes out okay in the end. It does. And that’s a reminder that these books really must be read in order. If you pick up one down the chain you’ll miss a lot and not quite understand it all. I picked up the last two after having read the sixth one a while before, and I had to go back and take a look a it to remind myself of what had happened.
So here they are in order. The two-word titles are evocative of the Shetland landscape. If you have not read these, you’re in for a treat!
Raven Black (2006)
White Nights (2008)
Red Bones (2009)
Blue Lightning (2011)
Dead Water (2013)
Thin Air (2014)
Cold Earth (2016)
Wild Fire (2018)