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.
White Nights was the Saturday Play on Radio 4 on Saturday 2nd July, 2.30 pm, directed by Kirsteen Cameron. and starring Steven Robertson as Jimmy Perez. Ann was particularly pleased with this casting: "This is great news" she said, "because Steven is a Shetlander." The play received a seasonal repeat on the evening of 9th June 2012.
The production also featured music by Shetland fiddler Chris Stout, who collaborated with harpist Catriona McKay to produce a CD aslso called - "White Nights"! Ann Cleeves explains: "It's not a representation of the book, rather a sense of Shetland and Scandanavia in mid-summer. But there is one tune called Roddy Sinclair - the name of a charismatic fiddle player who appears in the book!"
White Nights is available on from Amazon UK (using the links below) or from any bookshop (quoting the ISBN will make this easier):
- in the original hardback edition (ISBN: 978-0-230-01445-9)
- in an Ulverscroft Large Print edition (ISBN: 978-1-847-82420-2)
- in a paperback edition (ISBN: 978-0330448253).
- Order the audiobook read by Gordon Griffin from the publisher ISIS Soundings; available on cassette (ISBN: 978-1-4079-0212-8) or audio CD (ISBN: 978-1-4079-0213-5).
- Now also available for download as a Kindle eBook.
The US edition of White Nights was published in September 2008 by St. Martin's Minotaur. It made the ABA Booksense Hardcover top 20, and was chosen for October's Indie Next List (books recommended by America's independent booksellers - so it should be easy to find in bookstores); or help your local bookstore to order it by quoting the ISBN. Kirkus Review said "Cleeves's keen sense of the seasonal rhythms of Shetland life and her vivid descriptions of its terrain satisfy like a peaty Highland dram, sipped slowly."
"White Nights is a pleasure to read. Interesting characters, great setting, intriguing plot, and nothing to turn the sensitive stomach! And the bonus when we finish it is that we know we've got two more to look forward to."
"This is wonderful... Part of the wonder of this book is the domestic detail that becomes iconic within the novel... This is a very good author. This is an author that bears criticism."
Jeff Parks on Radio Four's Front Row
"One of the best things about the novel is Cleeves's affectionate portrait of this small rural community."
"White Nights is intricate and engrossing, offering readers the pleasures of the traditional locked room/isolated island mystery."
Maureen Corrigan, Washington Post
"In true Agatha Christie style, Cleeves once again pulls the wool over our eyes with cunning and conviction"
"A most satisfying mystery set in an isolated and intriguing location."
"Ann Cleeves' great strength is in enclosing the crime itself within the total picture of what is happening to the islanders, and of what happened years ago. The result is a building of momentum that explodes with memorable effect."
Amy Myers, Shotsmag
"A carefully constructed, atmospheric and interesting mystery"
Jessica Mann, Literary Review
"Ann Cleeves' intriguing mystery is tangentially energised by the "simmer dim", a mid summer craziness attributed to the midnight sun"
"It's a good, character-led mystery, which displays the art of storytelling without recourse to slash and stab."
Susanna Yager, The Telegraph
"Jimmy Perez might be Shetland's finest detective, but he finds himself in rather uncompromising circumstances when two people linked to his love interest, Fran Hunter, are murdered. What's more, it's the height of the summer silly season when the Shetland sun never sets."
"It continues Ann Cleeves' insightful and detailed evocation of life in a small, fairly rural and isolated community... This is a book that grabs the attention and make you want to read on. The characters are sympathetic and interesting; the colour of the local descriptions add to the atmosphere; the people and the place relate to the reader and seem almost familiar."
"Cleeves' research has been meticulous and the book is a fine achievement."