The Shetland books in order:
The Four Seasons Quartet
More about Raven Black
More about White Nights
More about Red Bones
More about Blue Lightning
* * *
The Four Elements Quartet
More about Dead Water
More about Thin Air
More about Cold Earth
Shetland's triumphant return
Filming has now started on a fourth series of BBC One's acclaimed drama, Shetland, based on the characters and setting on Ann Cleeves's award-winning novels. The announcement confirms that Douglas Henshall will return as DI Jimmy Perez, with Alison O'Donnell and Shetlander Steven Robertson as his fellow-officers, plus Mark Bonnar and Julie Graham alongside new faces, filming on location in Shetland, Glasgow and Norway. This new series is a single original story told in six episodes, in which Perez must deal with murders from the past and present with unsettling similarities.
The previous series of Shetland carried off two of 2016's Scottish Baftas: when the winners of this year's awards were revealed, Shetland took the prize in two of the four categories for which it was in the running. Shetland itself won best television drama, and Douglas Henshall, who plays detective inspector Jimmy Perez, was named best television actor. Director Jan Matthys (best director film/television) and Gaby Chiappe (best writer film/television) were also nominated.
Ann told BBC Radio Shetland that the response to the last series was "so astonishing" that she "always felt there was a very good chance that it would come back".
Ann's Shetland books have already formed the basis of three series of TV crime dramas, which include stories based on the books, but develop in quite different directions, especially the six-part story which forms the whole of the third series. All three series are now available on DVD:
- Series 1 & 2
Season 1, two-part adaptation of Red Bones; Raven Black, Dead Water and Blue Lightning from season two
- Available from Amazon UK (region 2) and from Amazon.com (region 1).
- Series 3
An original 6-part drama
- Available now from Amazon UK (region 2); and from Amazon.com (region 1).
The BBC has a Shetland mini-website, with lots of background information, including a quick run-down of who's who in series 3! There are also new cast interviews and photos - and visit the Writers' Room for Ann's reactions. She told us: "The TV adaptations are very often very different from the books - the scriptwriters cut some characters and add others, cut big chunks of plot and sometimes they even change the murderer! But I'm very relaxed about that. Prose and film are different forms. Besides, the book stops being mine every time someone reads it. Each reader brings their own imagination, history and prejudice to the story and each writer has to learn to let go. Adaptation just takes the process a bit further." She shared her thoughts about the shocking events of series 3, episode five with the Guardian.
Shetland book news
The latest Shetland mystery is Cold Earth, launched with an epic autumn tour of the UK to celebrate Ann's 30th book in 30 years; and with a spring tour in the US. It is now also available in the UK in paperback.
Cold Earth opens as Jimmy Perez attends the burial of his old friend Magnus Tait: but torrential rain triggers a landslide that reveals a totally unexpected body that of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress. Her identity is a mystery Jimmy becomes obsessed with solving: perhaps it can help the dark-haired Fair Islander resolve some mysteries of his own.
"One of the most memorable entries in the series."
Barry Forshaw, FT
Read more about Cold Earth.
Cold Earth is the seventh Shetland mystery featuring DI Jimmy Perez - not bad going for what was originally planned as a standalone story! "Jimmy was created because I thought there would just be one book," Ann told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. "It seemed like it would be stretching credibility to kill off too many people in Shetland, with its small population."
When that first story, Raven Black, was a big success, winning the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award for the best crime novel of the year, Ann was persuaded to carry on with a quartet of novels, depicting the changing face of Shetland in all four seasons. And then a second quartet. But now, she says, "There will be just one more Shetland book after Cold Earth. And then the story is told." As for Jimmy, "I might kill him off." Perhaps she was joking: but readers who have been keeping up with the series so far know that Ann Cleeves is quite capable of dropping a bombshell.
Too Good To Be True
Award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves is a great believer in the importance of libraries and of reading. So she has written a new mystery featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez from her bestselling Shetland series. But this is a Shetland mystery with a difference: Too Good To Be True is a gripping Quick Read which takes Jimmy Perez away from his home territory, all the way south to the Borders.
When young teacher Anna Blackwell is found dead in her home, the police think her death was suicide or a tragic accident. After all, Stonebridge is a quiet country village in the Scottish Borders, where murders just don't happen.
But Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez soon arrives from far-away Shetland when his ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to look into the case. The local gossips are saying that her new husband, Tom, was having an affair with Anna. Could Tom have been involved with her death? Sarah refuses to believe it - but needs proof.
Anna had been a teacher. She must have loved kids. Would she kill herself knowing there was nobody to look after her daughter? She had seemed happier than ever before she died. And to Perez, this suggests not suicide, but murder ...
Too Good To Be True has been selected as one of 15 books to be given away, free, on World Book Night, April 23rd 2016. Organisers explained that the diverse line-up, spanning genres of crime, poetry, non-fiction, YA, historical fiction, and fiction in translation, was devised to celebrate "the enrichment that reading and books can bring to people's lives" encouraging those who don't already read for pleasure - an estimated 36% of adults - to get involved. Ann said "It's nice to be a part of this event, specially with the Quick Read Jimmy Perez!"
Ann Cleeves's Shetland
Ann Cleeves's bestselling series of crime novels, featuring Detective Jimmy Perez, and now also adapted for a major BBC television series, draw their inspiration from the place in which they are set: Shetland.
Ann says "If you'd like to know more about the islands where the show is filmed and the books are set, check out my non-fiction book. It's full of wonderful photos and explains why I love the place so much." It's a gloriously illustrated companion to the novels, taking readers through a year on Shetland, learning about its past, meeting its people, celebrating its festivals and seeing how the flora and fauna of the islands changes with the seasons. Whether it is the drama of the Viking fire festival of Up Helly Aa in winter, or the piercing blue and hot pink of spring flowers on the clifftops, the long, white nights of midsummer or the fierce gales and high tides of autumn, Shetland is vividly captured in all its bleak and special beauty.
An archipelago of more than a hundred islands, Shetland is the one of the most remote places in the United Kingdom. Its fifteen hundred miles of shore mean that wherever one stands, there is a view of the sea. It has sheltered voes and beaches and dramatically exposed cliffs, lush meadows full of wild flowers in the summer and bleak hilltops where only the hardiest of plants will grow. It is a place where traditions are valued and celebrated, but new technologies and ways of working are also embraced.
You can see an extract from the book on the publishers' website.
Raven Black was initially intended as a standalone novel - after all, how many murders could there be in Shetland? But the book was so successful, winning the first Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award for the best crime novel of the year, as well as numerous fans, that Ann wrote another Shetland mystery, and then another - until she had completed a quartet covering all four seasons and a tour of the archipelago.
For a fan's eye view of the original quartet, see The Book Resort, which gave the Shetland Quartet rave reviews during its Ann Cleeves Week; all the earlier books - plus an interview with Ann - are linked from the review of Blue Lightning. They also held an informal chat with Ann, in which she answers the question: "Tell us one thing about yourself that most of your fans don't already know?".
Now the Four Seasons Quartet is being followed by the Four Elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air - but not in that order!
Ann has contributed a Shetland story - The Spinster - to OxCrimes, a star-studded anthology of the best in crime writing, published by Profile Books in aid of Oxfam. OxCrimes is introduced by Ian Rankin and has been curated by Peter Florence, director of Hay Festival, where it will be launched in May: read more on the publisher's website, which includes links to buy your copy from Waterstones or Amazon - or call in at your local Oxfam shop!
My Shetland - two prize-winning short films chosen by Ann Cleeves to show readers of her Shetland Quartet what the islands look like to the people who live there. Or see a large image of the map on this site.