Book Review – White Nights by Ann Cleeves

Genre: Fiction; Mystery; Crime

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5

There’s something so special about a novel that makes you feel like you’re sitting next to a campfire listening to someone tell you a story. And that’s what White Nights by Ann Cleeves feels like. It’s a comfy crime novel without too much drama but just enough twists and unexpected reveals to make it a novel to remember. 

White Nights is the second novel in the Shetland Island series. Again we follow Inspector Jimmy Perez. The launch of his soon-to-be girlfriend’s art exhibition leads to questions as a strange man appears, causes a scene, and disappears into the night. The next morning, when his body is found in the boat house nearby, the murder investigation begins. 

This novel is set in Shetland during a time of year when the sun never fully sets, putting it’s residents and visitors on edge. While those who live in Shetland year-round are more accustomed, a detective visiting from the mainland can’t get a handle of the constant daylight. Throughout the novel we see his anxiety rise and tensions become more strained. While this doesn’t have a huge impact on the investigation for Inspector Perez, it adds a nice dynamic to the novel.

“The winters were so bleak and black that in the summer folk were overtaken with a kind of frenzy, constant activity. There was the feeling that you had to make the most of it, be outside, enjoy it before the dark days came again. Here in Shetland they called it the ‘simmer dim’.”

Ann Cleeves, White Nights

Inspector Perez has lived in Shetland his whole life, and this allows us to gain an insight into the characters of the story we wouldn’t otherwise have. We learn about the strange, intricate relationships of these people who have known each other their whole lives. These personal relationships are ultimately what helps Jimmy read through the lines and solve the case.

The slow and steady pace of following a detective around town as he interviews witnesses, suspects, or anyone else who might know something is so comforting and peaceful to me. I settled into a cadence and just let the rhythm carry me through the pages. 

This kind of novel is where I go when I need a break from the dramatic, emotional, and over-the-top. It isn’t for everyone, but if you crave an escape and somewhere to turn your brain off and just disappear for a while – Ann Cleeves is the author for you. 

What I’m Reading – White Nights by Ann Cleeves

I picked up my first Ann Cleeves novel, Raven Black, a few years ago, and I was hooked. She really knows how to write a crime novel. So when it was time to pick up my next book, White Nights was an easy selection.

I’m in the process of reading every book on my to-be read (TBR) cart and wanted a small break from the usual fantasy novels I read. I quickly read through Verity by Colleen Hoover (so quickly that I didn’t have time to write a “What I’m Reading” post for it) and wanted a little more thriller/crime before I returned to the fantasy world.

Ann Cleeves is a brilliant writer and an excellent story teller, so I knew White Nights would pull me in. I was right. From the moment I picked up the second book in the Shetland Mysteries series, I’ve wanted to keep reading.

If you enjoy crime/thriller novels and haven’t read anything by Ann Cleeves yet, I highly suggest you add her to your list. You won’t be disappointed.

Also, for those who enjoy a good thriller novel but have a distaste for the violent and graphic content that often comes along with those – Ann Cleeves is a great author for you. While there is violence and death it’s never described in a graphic or terrifying way.

Synopsis

It’s midsummer in Shetland, the time of the white nights, when birds sing at midnight and the sun never sets.

Artist Bella Sinclair throws a party to launch an exhibition of her work and to introduce the paintings of Fran Hunter. The Herring House, the gallery where the exhibition is held, is on the beach at Biddista, in the remote north west of the island. When a mysterious Englishman bursts into tears and claims not to know who he is or where he’s come from, the evening ends in farce. The following day the Englishman is found hanging from a rafter in a boathouse on the jetty, a clown’s mask on his face.

Detective Jimmy Perez is convinced that this is a local murder. A second murder Biddista only reinforces this belief. But the detective’s relationship with Fran Hunter clouds his judgement. And this is a crazy time of the year when night blurs into day and nothing is quite as it seems.