It’s an exhibition by two artists at an art gallery in the Shetland Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. It’s summer, which means sunset comes very late, if it comes at all. Attendance at the exhibition is far less than what was expected. Bella Sinclair, one of the artists exhibiting, is something of a celebrity, not only in the Shetlands but beyond. The other artist is Detective Jimmy Perez’s new love interest.
A balding older man suddenly breaks down crying, falling to his knees in front of one of the paintings. Perez escorts him to the kitchen; the man says he’s suddenly lost all memory of his identity and why he started crying. A few moments later, the man disappears.
Shortly after, he’s found dead, hanging in a storage building. The examining doctor suspects it isn’t the suicide it appears to be. And it does indeed turn out to be murder. There’s nothing in the man’s pockets which might identify him. In fact, no one recognizes him, and no one knows where he was before he came to the gallery.
That is the beginning of White Nights, the second Jimmy Perez mystery novel by writer Ann Cleeves. The story will grow to include a superior officer being sent from Inverness in Scotland to help with the investigation; connections to Huddersfield in York; Perez’s growing love interest; secrets thought buried in the past; and a second murder.
Cleeves has published seven mysteries in the Jimmy Perez / Shetland series, including Raven Black (2008), Red Bones (2009), Blue Lightning (2010), Dead Water (2014), Thin Air (2015), and Cold Air (2017). She’s also published eight mystery novels in the Vera Stanhope series (also a television series), six Inspector Stephen Ramsay mysteries, and several others works and short stories. The Jimmy Perez novels are the basis for the BBC television series “Shetland.” Cleeves lives in northeastern England.
White Nights is a fine mystery, full of plot twists and turns but nothing that really surprises the reader. This is a story by an author who respects her readers, and it is a good one.
Top photograph of the Shetland Islands via Shetland.org.