Cleeves, Ann. White Nights.

NY: St. Martin, 2008.

This is the second in the “Shetland” detective series and it’s just as good as Raven Black, the first book, which is something of a relief. (One always anticipates Second Novel Syndrome.) It’s a few months after those events and DI Jimmy Perez, senior cop in the islands, has found himself in a slowly but steadily growing relationship with Fran Hunter, a semi-recent incomer from London and an artist of talent whose very young daughter was peripherally involved in the earlier murder.

Fran has been invited to share in a gallery show with Bella Sinclair, a quite famous artist, and Perez comes along to lend moral support. And then a stranger, who had caused a disruptive scene at the show, is found hanged in a nearby shed on the beach the next morning. Kenny Thomson, who discovers the body, is another major character, a lifelong resident of the tiny community of Biddista, where Bella lives. And so is his wife, Edith, who manages the care center for the elderly in town. And so is Roddy Sinclair, Bella’s nephew and a nationally-known fiddler who tours the world but always comes back to Shetland.

Perez isn’t especially familiar with the residents of Biddista — they’re both very isolated and very reserved — but he gets into things professionally and personally before he’s forced to summon DCI Taylor, the homicide specialist, from Aberdeen yet again. And this, unfortunately, won’t be the only murder the two have to deal with.

Cleeves does a very good job with her characters, drawing fully rounded portraits that will hold your interest, and allowing several of them a POV so the reader can understand what’s happening from various angles. Her plots are complex and you have to pay attention, but she plays fair: The clues to whodunit are there. She also has considerable skill with the language and her descriptive passages are very nicely done indeed.

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