Thursday, November 5, 2009

a review of "Red Bones" by Ann Cleeves

Red Bones: A Thriller by Ann Cleeves
(Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312384340)

Red Bones is the third in Ann Cleeves's Shetland Quartet, following two I have reviewed before, White Nights and Raven Black, and a worthy followup it is indeed.

Raven Black was set in the snowy, cold winter of the Shetlands, White Nights in the long, bright, endless days of summer and this time we visit the islands in the spring, days of blossoming flowers, the birth of tiny lambs and death...always, as befits a good mystery, death.

Many of our cast of characters from the previous books are here again, especially the quiet, thoughtful Detective Jimmy Perez and his now girlfriend Fran Hunter. But one minor character from the previous books plays a more prominent role in this story, Perez's rather lackadaisical colleague, policeman Sandy Wilson. Sandy is home, visiting his family on the neighboring island of Whalsay, when there is what appear to be a terrible accident and an elderly woman, Sandy's own grandmother, is found dead. But as usual, Perez is not totally satisfied that everything is what it at first appears and when a second women dies, suspicions only multiply.

What appears to be a quiet, hardworking community reveals itself to actually be a place where feuds and bitterness and secrets go back generations and, in the present, are just below the surface, threatening to break out and injure those all around. Sandy, because of his unique connections to the island, is in a unique position to look into what is going on in Whalsay. Even given his less than stellar policing past, he is given this opportunity by Perez to help in the investigation and to prove himself. Sandy is anxious to do so, to excel in the eyes of his mentor, but soon realizes that to do so may be to expose some wrongdoing among his very closest friends and family. Sometimes the secrets just have to come to an end.

Red Bones, named for the find of some archaeologists working at a dig on the island, is another well written, entertaining mystery from the pen of Ms. Cleeves. I love the setting in the Shetlands, this time the even more remote Whalsay, with the croft houses, fishing ships, the fields dotted with spring lambs and the sea, the ever present sea. The plot is smart and interesting and once more Cleeves excels at giving us some great characters including, this time, Sandy. It is great to see him start to realize some of his shortcomings, both personal and professional and attempt to improve on them both and it is amusing to see Perez's pride as he starts to see Sandy become a better detective, even if it will have a personal cost.

Another winner from Cleeves and I must say, I anxiously await the fourth and final book in the series. According to her web site, the book, due out in February of next year, will be called Blue Lightning, after a phrase from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:

"For my part I have walk'd about the streets,
Submitting me unto the perilous night,
And, thus unbraced, Casca, as you see,
Have bared my bosom to the thunder-stone;
And when the cross blue lightning seem'd to open
The breast of heaven, I did present myself
Even in the aim and very flash of it."

It is certainly on my wish list! It seems there will even be a lighthouse!!


  1. Oooh...a lighthouse? That got my attention! I've not heard of this series. It seems that even though I have seriesed myself to death, there are a few thousand more out there just waiting for me.

  2. I must say, this is a favorite series of mine, if I did not make this and since there are only three so far, with the fourth and final to come out next year, it is very doable.

  3. I've never read this author but your review makes me want to get the first one at least. yeah, 4 is doable. Some of the series with 18 or more is out of control!

  4. Love the cover; love your review. I must give this a try--thanks so much

  5. I love a good series. I'll have to look for this one.

  6. I love Ann Cleeves' writing, and it all began with her Shetland Quartet. I can't wait to get my paws on this book!!

  7. I put the first book of this quartet on my wish list at Paperback Swap based on your review. Once I read it, I"ll probably end up looking for the rest!


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