Shetland is an excellent TV series; one of my favourites. My interest in crime fiction was strongly influenced by it.
While watching the first series I was drawn to the novels by Ann Cleeves upon which the series was based.
The TV version features Jimmy Perez, a detective whose life is complicated by a late-teen stepdaughter, Cassie.
One of the additional pleasures of Cleeves’ books is that they depict Perez when he first meets Cassie’s mother, Fran an artist, and Cassie is still a young girl. The two formats therefore cover a wider time period and because I saw the TV version first, the books seem to provide a backstory to the series.
White Nights starts with Perez’s first real date with Fran, at an exhibition of her art. That night out then leads to the discovery of a murder victim in shed near to the gallery.
This all happens mid-summer, within a period known in Shetland as the “simmer dim”, when the sun never really sets, resulting in a lingering half-light instead of a normal night darkness.
The thing I like most about this book is the depth of character, its vivid portrayal of landscape, and the journey it gives into Shetland life.
In my opinion, the richness throughout the book almost makes the concluding solution of the crime irrelevant. It’s not a book that puts all of its eggs into the “who-dunnit-basket”.
For me the resolution of a crime novel works best when the guilty party is revealed and the reader can then see how obvious that person’s guilt was – despite having not having seen it throughout the rest of the book. With White Nights, while I found the conclusion plausible, I seem to have missed clues and reasoning within the rest of the book, therefore for me it lacked that ultimate, satisfying, “of course, how could I have missed that” reaction.