Ann Cleeves is this year's international guest of honour at Malice Domestic, and given the great support she always gives to other writers, it provides a welcome opportunity for fellow novelists as well as fans to express their appreciation of her achievements. I'm delighted that I've been asked to interview Ann at Malice, and given that I've followed her career since she published her very first novel, way back in 1986, I might just be able to manage without any notes!
A few years after that first book appeared, I met Ann at a northern chapter meeting of the CWA, and we have been friends ever since. In discussing her books, therefore, I will not suggest that I'm totally impartial, but I am as sure as I can be that her latest novel in the wildly successful Shetland series, Thin Air, will be regarded by any objective judge as a very enjoyable whodunit.
This is a Jimmy Perez story, of course, and Jimmy is still coming to terms with a bereavement suffered earlier in the series. Whereas I think that Ann's books about Vera Stanhope can probably be read in any order, it may be that some readers would prefer to start the Shetland series at the beginning, with Raven Black, which was Ann's breakthrough book. Whether or not you begin with Thin Air, though, I'm confident you'll find it an appealing story in the traditional pattern, with plenty of the deft touches and shrewd observations about humanity that Ann does so well. Her writing is authentic, but not in such a way that the narrative becomes bogged down. She says in a prefatory note: "I do know that it's impossible to send an email by iPhone from Unst, but this is a story",and this reflects a sensible approach to a writer's priorities - the story must come first.
There are two plot strands. which may or may not be connected - the murder of an attractive woman, and the strange appearance of a local ghost of a young girl, "Peerie Lizzie". There's a mix of suspects, who are nicely contrasted. And the setting is, as always, very well done. All in all, an enjoyable read from a very popular author. Thin Air will be just one of the books of Ann's that we'll be discussing at Malice Domestic.