Friday, June 5, 2015
Review of Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves (Pan 2010)
Blue Lightning is the fourth book in Ann Cleeves’ Shetlands series, and in my view the strongest one in the sequence. Cleeves uses a classic setup of a murder amongst a small number of characters who are isolated and have to remain together whilst the lone detective tries to determine which one of them is the killer and to prevent further deaths. As with the other books there is a strong sense of place and good contextualisation, this time with respect to bird watching, and strong characterisation. Where the story excels, however, is with respect to its emotional register, which is difficult to discuss without giving spoilers. The plot unfolds as one might expect with the setup, with Perez trying to determine why the head of the bird observatory was murdered and by whom. In that sense it’s rather a straightforward tale, but Cleeves mixes it up with a couple of savage twists that are somewhat signposted, but nonetheless have deep emotional impact and leave the reader surprised she had the nerve to perform them. Overall, an interesting take on an established mystery trope.