Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves

Blue Lightning: A Thriller

This is the first of Ann Cleeves’ series I have read. It was recommended to me by a reader who does not like explicit or gory forensic details and who claims that every Cleeves book has a big hook at the start to grab one into reading almost against one’s will. I was startled to find that this story started out with someone I thought was the main character—an unattached lesbian recovering from a ruined affair. Cleeves spent a great deal of time establishing this character only to kill her off later, which I thought a pity. The character added a modern twist to a traditional British cozy mystery and I thought it an excellent adaptation of a Miss Marple type. I do think a good central detective has to be somewhat removed from mainstream life—to have a differentness—that makes them see the world from angles most of us do not discern.

The real main character of what is now called Cleeves’ Shetland series, Perez, is the much-removed descendant of a shipwrecked Spaniard who settled on an outer island of the Shetland chain. In this latest of the series, Perez is a policeman on holiday with his fiancĂ©, and encounters skullduggery amongst birdwatchers staying in a lighthouse in the late fall season. I must admit my interest flagged a bit when the one reasonably capable character with interests outside of herself was killed off, but Cleeves brought enough havoc to the story to keep the action moving, even if some of the actions and motivations of some of the birders seemed unreasonable and hardly credible. The problem with mysteries is that the reader must believe in the story or one can simply dismiss it as so much twaddle. Cleeves ran close to the wind on this one, though I did think she had something good going with her middle-aged lesbian amateur detective. Perhaps she should start another series with this kind of character nosing about.

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