Sunday, March 6, 2011

Red Bones - Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves’s Shetland Quartet was one of my discoveries last year. Even though I read the books out of order (see my reviews of Raven Black, White Nights & Blue Lightning), it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this excellent mystery series. I’ve now read the third book in the series, Red Bones, & I’m eager to read more of Ann Cleeves’s books. I have her latest novel, Silent Voices, on the tbr pile. This is one of the Vera Stanhope series & a new TV series starring Blenda Blethyn as Vera has been filmed & will be shown on UK television this year.

I love the atmosphere of the Shetland novels. Red Bones is set on Whalsay, a small island community that is also the home of Sandy Wilson, policeman & offsider to Inspector Jimmy Perez. When Sandy’s grandmother, Mima, is shot by a neighbour out shooting rabbits on a foggy night, it seems to be a tragic accident. Mima’s husband had been a fisherman, like most of the Whalsay men, & had been drowned many years before. She lived alone & looked after her croft, Setter, with the help of her son & his wife, Evelyn. Two young archaeologists, Hattie & Sophie, had recently arrived to work on a dig on Mima’s land. Hattie, an intense young woman, was working on her PhD thesis that there had been a merchant’s house there in the 15th century. When human remains are found on the site, Hattie is thrilled to think that this may prove the age of the site & the status of the owner. Mima seems more disturbed by the find.

Ronald Clouston, the young man who was out shooting on the night Mima died, had been a little drunk after an argument with his wife, Anna, just home after giving birth to their first child. He’s devastated by the thought that his reckless behaviour killed Mima & falls to pieces while Anna, an outsider trying to set up a craft business on Whalsay, becomes more & more exasperated with his weakness.

Ann Cleeves sets up the relationships & tensions among the families on Whalsay so well. Ronald Clouston & Sandy Wilson grew up together. Their mothers, Evelyn & Jackie, are sisters & rivals. Jackie Clouston married into a rich fishing family while the Wilsons were less prosperous. Evelyn is a managing woman & she is determined that the archaeological finds will turn Whalsay into a tourist destination. She had a tense relationship with her mother-in-law, & now that her husband owns Setter, she wants to create a heritage centre there. Sandy Wilson isn’t the cleverest policemen in the service & he’s devastated by his grandmother’s death & eager to hand over to his boss, Perez, who comes in to investigate. Perez uses Sandy’s knowledge of the islanders to good effect in his investigations, especially when he begins to suspect that Mima’s death wasn’t accidental & there could have been someone else out shooting that night.

I suspected just about everyone as the story progressed. The story encompasses the distant past of the archaeological dig, the activities of the local fishermen during WWII when they helped ferry equipment & men to Norway to fight the Nazis & more recent events. Red Bones is a perfect mix of mystery, atmosphere & intriguing characters with a very satisfying twist at the end.


  1. This appears to have all the ingredients of a murder mystery my DH would enjoy, I'll get him to read this review.

  2. A friend of mine mention Ann Cleeves only last week but she's a writer I haven't yet tried. I think I'm going to explore the Stanhope books first. Off to the library site for the second time this morning!

  3. I love this series. The setting is so stunning it makes me want to visit Shetland. Red Bones is my next read in this series so will come back and read your review properly when I eventually read the book.

  4. I don't know why it took me so long to read the Quartet. I read some of Ann Cleeves's books years ago & I've always been aware of her but hadn't picked up any of her books for ages. I've dipped into the latest Vera Stanhope, Silent Voices, & I like Vera, I think it's going to be good. Then, I'll have to go back & read the others.Cath, I agree, the setting is a main attraction, I love Scotland & books set there. Rose, I hope the DH enjoys it. Annie, where would we be without libraries? None of us are rich enough to buy all the books we need.