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I recently received some Amazon vouchers so I was keen to go onto their web site and see what I would like to buy with them. Anyone who knows me will know I love crime fiction so after checking out a few reviews of them, this book was recommended as something I might like. I thought as all the reviews about it where positive that I should definitely give it a try too, as it was on that basis I purchased it.
==About the author:==
Ann Cleeves was born in 1954 and in what I can only describe as an unusual working life she has been a probation officer, a auxiliary coastguard and a bird observation cook. However having become a published and successful writer this is what she now focuses on. So far she has written 24 novels in various series and in 2006 she was the winner of the Dagger Award for Crime fiction for her novel 'Raven Black'. The novel I am about to review is the latest one in this series and the fourth in total from the Shetland Island Quartet and was published in 2010.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Jimmy Perez is a Detective in the Shetland Islands. He and his girlfriend Fran decide to return to the very beautiful but remote Fair Isle where he was born to see his parents before the Winter sets in and makes travel to and from the Island more difficult. This is an island that is very popular because of it's unspoilt landscape with Bird watchers and because of its location it attracts Birds that are rarely seen in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Jimmy and Fran have come to get the blessing of his parents for their engagement and a party has been arranged to make the arrangement official. However in amongst all the cheer and excitement for the happy couple simmers tension and unrest as emotions boil over and a murder is committed in the Bird room.
Jimmy's presence is requested as the only Detective currently on the Island. With terrible storms and gails forecast for the next few days he will need to conduct the investigation until help arrives or he can solve this mystery, as the Island is once again cut of from the rest of the country. Who has committed this crime and why has the dead body being covered in Bird feathers? Jimmy knows he must act quickly because he can feel the nervousness and tension all around him.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
I think in many ways Ann Cleeves was onto a loser as soon as I started reading this crime thriller. The reason I say that is because this book had come so highly recommended it could never really live up to many expectations. And to be honest for me I thought this was quite an average book and one I did not particularly enjoy.
That is often the problem I find when you are told how great or brilliant something is in advance it will often disappoint or not live up in your opinion to this high billing. However to start with I was intrigued by it. Firstly because it as it proudly boasted in the front cover was 'From the International Bestseller' and this was an author I had heard off but never tried so I expected something a bit special. Secondly and probably more importantly for me on the back of the book where three compliments for this series of books from three authors I very much like and respect. I knew I must read it after that.
I liked the title too and I wondered what the author was inferring with 'Blue Lightning'. So I turned over and read the quite short but informative summary on the back cover. I immediately took to the concepts the author was introducing, this beautiful but very remote place that was being cut off from the rest of civilization and as this happens a murder is committed. I thought this was excellent and I liked the fact the investigating officer Perez had no back up and no technology to help him try and solve it.
However as soon as I started actually reading the story I found it really difficult to get into. I tried to work out why its wasn't the quality of the writing because that was fine. What I found was I couldn't really relate to the characters because I have no interest in Birds and as a lot of the central characters that was what had brought them to the Island and was their interest I had problems relating and understanding them.
I hoped this would improve once the murder was announced but it didn't really and I kept finding my interest in this story waining. So much so a book of this length 356 pages would usually have taken me 3-4 days took me almost two weeks. And what frustrated me most was the best character, the one that really had something about them and was most interesting was killed off, leaving the lesser ones.
I kept thinking it must be me and waiting for the spark to happen and for me to be totally gripped by the story but it never happened, instead I just plodded on. One of the things that helped me do this was at no time did I have any idea in what direction the story was going to go in next. This really helped as the author was very good at introducing some very unexpected twists and turns that left me impressed and surprised.
What certainly confused and bewildered me was the story was not just written from Detective Perez's viewpoint. It at various time followed the majority of the lead characters. So on the plus side you got to know a little more about them and their thoughts but on the flip-side meant I knew a little about most the characters and I never really got to know or understand any of their motives or goals. As I result and as the story moved on from character to character I found I got a few of them confused and I knew very little about any of them.
I think the major problem I had with this piece of fiction was I was never comfortable or convinced with the lead character Jimmy Perez. I found I could never relate to him and I did not know him well enough to understand him. As a result of that his investigation seemed flawed and unconvincing and only the excellent twists in the story kept me going. He was a character for me that was disappointing because he was so run of the mill, there was nothing different or exciting for me to like, take to or admire about him.
It was the other characters that I thought where far more interesting. Certainly Fran Perez's girlfriend was good and I liked her thoughts and feelings about being on this strange Island stuck with his parents. I felt I understand her far better and I enjoyed when the story reverted to her or Jane the Cook, who was advised she would not be required again next year as just before the murder happened. These characters for me had more personality and I would have liked them more involved in the investigation throughout.
The conclusion to the story was well thought out and not one I had expected. So I certainly give the writer fair respect for that. As it certainly made sense, was well concealed and very well thought out. I liked the fact the author was using her knowledge of the Birding community and the level of detailed knowledge was impressive without turning the reader off too much with terms and expressions that would not be understood.
What I did like the whole way through the story was the mystery the author created around what was happening and the characters within it. So that at no time was the solution at all obvious and she skilfully put different ideas and alternatives into the story that made the reader believe it was taking a different direction.
The length of the story was about right to tell this interesting thriller. For me I think I saw enough quality in the author's writing to definitely try something else from her in the hope I can enjoy it more than I did this one. I guess that's the problem when the expectation is so high!!
This is not a crime thriller that I can hand on heart recommend. While the writing was always very descriptive and good quality and the story was cleverly thought out in a classic Agatha Christie style. For me the lead character was such a disappointment, I did not take to him at all and kept hoping that he may be killed next and let Fran his girlfriend take over.
Price: 4.79 New at Amazon
Date first published: 2010
More about the author: www.anncleeves.com
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPTDANIELS February 2012.