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Raven Black: 12/30/20
Raven Black by Ann Cleeves and Gordon Griffin (narrator) is the first mystery in the Shetland Island series. It's also the inspiration for parts of the first series of Shetland ("Red Bones") and the first mystery of series two ("Raven Black"). I saw these first two mysteries on Shetland a couple years ago and decided to read the mystery series.
I recall Shetland being rather confusing in parts and now having read Raven Black I can see it's because a central artistic theme was stripped from it and applied to "Red Bones." This theme is fire and ice, taken from the Robert Frost poem. By stripping the fire of Up Helly Aa and slapping it onto an entire different mystery, destroys the narrative flow of both mysteries.
The book opens with an elderly man, Magnus, inviting two teenage girls to his home for cake on New Year's Eve. They live at the end of the lane near his place. They are tipsy and not inclined to go home, so they accept his offer as a lark. Both girls eventually head home. A couple days later, one of them is found murdered near the man's home and the village is convinced he did it. See, 19 years earlier, another girl who was friends with him went missing but he was never convicted.
The remainder of the mystery is an investigation of the dead girl's last days. It's a look into her history, her family, her love life, and ultimately a video project she was doing on the village, called "Fire and Ice."
Like In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany (2007), the narrative switches among multiple points of view, although the protagonist is clearly Inspector Jimmy Perez. Perez is from a different island but has settled here to work. His family, mother especially, wants him to come home and settle down, but he's conflicted.
Also like Delany's mystery, Raven Black's main appeal is its setting. It's a mystery set in a small, remote place with a harsh climate. In this volume, that setting is explored through the Robert Frost poem, just as the victim's life and character is.
The second book is White Nights (2008).