Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: White Nights by Ann Cleeves

Title: White Nights: A Shetland Island Thriller
Author: Ann Cleeves
Publisher: Macmillan
Date of publication: September 2008

White Nights follows Raven Black in the Shetland Islands Quartet, but it is not necessary to have read these books in order. I didn't feel that I was missing anything by skipping straight to book two.

I'm always curious about the titles of books and how they fit into the story. The phrase "white nights" refers to the constant daylight during the summer months in the extreme Northern hemisphere. Several characters mention the somewhat maddening and sleep disturbing effect that the lack of darkness has on some people and the reader is left to wonder if this will play into the murder mystery. White Nights is primarily a who-done-it that I found to be well crafted. I was not able to guess the identity of the murderer. The author did a wonderful job developing the story and keeping me in suspense. I was able to put a few pieces of the whole together before she revealed the identity and motivation of the murderer, but I did not guess the ultimate reveal ahead of time.

The characters in White Nights were developed well enough to make me care about them and I hope that some of them are/will be recurring in her other Shetland Island books. Beyond the mystery, the author brought up issues regarding the place of family, community and belonging that helped further connect me to the characters.

I was very satisfied by the atmosphere of the book. It reminded me somewhat of an Iris Murdoch novel that I read years ago (the title eludes me right now). The extreme Northern setting and harsh landscape of the Shetland Islands gave the novel an edge and a haunting quality that I thought suited the story as did the cloistered atmosphere of a small village where secrets are kept for many years.

I've already purchased Raven Black and will be running out to buy books three and four in this series when they become available. I highly recommend White Nights to mystery lovers and those who like atmospheric reads.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Advance Review Edition graciously provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program.

Note to other reviewers: If you've written a review for this book, please let me know by posting the permanent URL for your review in the comments. I'll be happy to add a link to your review with my post.


  1. In a response that totally dates me, I immediately thought of the movie White Nights with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Isabella Rossellini. Then the theme song started running through my head--only I realized it wasn't the theme song from White Nights, it was the theme song to Against All Odds--again totally dating me. Sigh.

  2. I've always wondered if long long days or long long nights would be more unnerving (I think having only a few hours of sunlight a day would be worse for me). Sounds like an interesting book--I do like atmospheric books and the premise sounds very intriguing.

  3. Trish: Good question! I'm not sure which would affect me more.

  4. I'm in need of a good "take me away" mystery. I think I'll start with the first book though - I'm very linear.

    (Coming over from Semi-colon's blog)

  5. Great review, Terri! This does sound like something I would like. I used to write to a woman who lived in Finland which had longer days and nights depending on the season. I always wondered how I would do in such an environment.

  6. DebD: Thanks for stopping by! I'm pretty linear myself, but I got this book as an ARC and needed to get it reviewed. It bothered me a bit until I got into the story and realized didn't feel lost!