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Thin Air

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New beginnings

Dead Water - the US edition

After the shocking ending of Blue Lightning, Inspector Jimmy Perez has been of out the loop, on indefinite leave. Will he be able to resume his post, and continue his investigations? When the body of journalist Jerry Markham is found in a traditional Shetland boat, outside the house of the Fiscal down at the Marina, young Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted in from the Hebrides to head the investigation.

But Jimmy Perez's interest in this new case is stirred and he decides to help the inquiry. For Willow, his local knowledge is invaluable, as the close-knit community holds many secrets. Markham - originally a Shetlander but who had made a name for himself in London - had left the islands years before to pursue his burgeoning writing career. In his wake, he left a scandal involving a young girl, Evie Watt, who is now engaged to a crofter. He had few friends there, so why was he back in Shetland?

Dead Water is now available in the US, published by St Martins Minotaur on February 17th 2014: read more about Dead Water here.

Meanwhile UK readers can find out what happened next in Thin Air, the sixth book in Ann Cleeves' Shetland series - which is now a major BBC One drama starring Douglas Henshall as detective Jimmy Perez. In it, a group of old university friends leave the bright lights of London and travel to Unst, Shetland's most northerly island, to celebrate the marriage of one of their friends to a Shetlander. It's mid-summer, a time of light nights and unexpected mists. But late on the night of the wedding party, one of them, Eleanor, disappears - apparently into thin air. The following day, Eleanor's friend Polly receives an email. It appears to be a suicide note, saying she'll never be found alive. And then Eleanor's body is discovered, lying in a small loch close to the cliff edge...

Jimmy Perez once more joins forces with Willow Reeves to investigate a death which reveals the tensions between tradition and modernity that lie deep at the heart of a community, and shows how events from the past can have devastating effects on the present.

Read more about Thin Air.

24 Hours, 24 Islands - and a book launch

On the Bressay ferry

Ann celebrated the publication of Thin Air with a unique series of events organised by Shetland Arts, Orkney Library and Shetland Library: 24 Islands/24 Hours, a 24 hour race against the clock. From 3.00 pm on Thursday 11th September to 3.00 pm on Friday 12th September there were events on 24 islands in Orkney and Shetland, culminating in the launch of Thin Air at Britain's most northerly library, in Baltasound, Unst.

Ann herself visited the Orkney Islands of Papa Westray and Burray - and met Shetland readers on the Bressay ferry, as well as travelling by mobile library and dropping into the Gutcher Goose Cafe, Yell, visiting seven islands in all. The picture, left, taken by Shetland librarian Douglas Garden, shows her signing a book for ferryman Will Taylor.

Other events included a book 'launch' with a difference for Marsali Taylor - a copy of her new book was literally launched into the sea of the isle of Vementry, to supply some lucky beachcomber with a good read! There was a poetry reading on the pier of East Isle, Skerries, and a late night walk around St Magnus cathedral and graveyard with readings and creepy stories. Louise Welsh did events for children and adults on Yell - but the biggest star of all was - well, look and see! There's a full round-up of events on Shetland Libraries' website, and another on Orkney Library's site.

What Ann wrote about 24 Hours, 24 Islands in her diary.

Shetland, the DVD

Shetland on television

Meanwhile, the entire Shetland television drama based on Ann Cleeves' Shetland novels - the whole story so far, series one and two - is now available on DVD. That's four of Ann's novels: Red Bones, dramatised in two parts in season one, and Raven Black, Dead Water and Blue Lightning from season two. Order it now from Amazon (sorry, it's Region 2 only at the moment).

Now also available in Australia!

And more good news - the BBC has announced that Douglas Henshall will return as Detective Jimmy Perez in another series of Shetland! This will be a single full-length story told over six episodes.

The BBC has a Shetland mini-website, with lots of background information, including clips from series 2, 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."

Shetland Quartets

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?".

Dead Water - US edition

The turning of the year's circle and the dramatic changes it brought for Jimmy Perez didn't mean the end of the story: Dead Water brought new beginnings - and the start of a new quartet based on the four elements: earth, water, fire and air. It picks up the story after a shocking change in the life of detective Jimmy Perez; but this is a time of change for the islands, too. Shetland has done well from the oil boom, but what will the new era of renewable energy bring? Can Jimmy Perez make a new beginning in his own life? And can he find the murderer of journalist Jerry Markham?

"...The tensions between those who wish to preserve their traditions and those who seek the opportunities of new technologies are subtly illustrated. Cleeves keeps readers guessing about the perpetrator's identity until the final pages."

Publishers Weekly

Dead Water, the first book of a new Quartet, is already available in the US; Thin Air, the second, is currently only available in the UK (the US edition follows in May 2015).


Shetland Stories

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.

Read an interview about Ann Cleeves and the Shetland Quartet in The Times Online; or read a profile of Ann Cleeves in The Scotsman.