Friday, October 29, 2010

"Blue Lightning"

Ann Cleeves' Raven Black, the first volume in the Shetland Island Quartet, received crime fiction’s highest monetary honor, the Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award. Booklist called White Nights, the second installment in the series, “[g]ripping from start to finish.” Red Bones, the third volume, was a Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week.

Cleeves applied the Page 69 Test to Blue Lightning, the fourth volume of the series, ann reported the following:
Blue Lightning is set on Fair Isle, the most remote island in the Shetland group. Fair Isle was my introduction to Shetland – I arrived there as a nineteen-year-old university drop-out to be assistant cook in the bird observatory. The novel is based around the work of a fictitious field centre in the old North Lighthouse buildings. It was an easy book to write because the place is so familiar. There’s a background story about the obsessive nature of bird watching, though that doesn’t appear in the selected page.

Page 69 features an encounter between Jimmy Perez, my series detective, and Jane the field centre cook. Perez is a Fair Islander who has taken his English fiancee to meet his family. A huge storm blows up and the island is cut off from the outside world. Then the field centre warden, an attractive media-savvy naturalist called Angela, is murdered. Jane is one of the suspects, but part of the story, including p.69, is told from her point of view.

Living communally in the lighthouse, Jane is determined to maintain an element of privacy. So the page starts when Perez asks if he might speak to her and she answers:
‘We could use my room, I suppose. It’s a bit cramped but nobody will disturb us.’ She never invited anyone into her room and was shocked that she’d been the one to suggest it.
Later Jane asks if Angela’s body is still in the Bird Room:
‘Is Angela still in there?’ Where had such a ghoulish question come from? Jane thought it was as if someone else had stepped inside her skin and was talking through her mouth.

He looked at her as if he was considering how much he should tell her. He must have reached the same conclusion as she had earlier: there could be no secrets in this place. ‘I thought I’d go in when the rest of you are having lunch. I’ll move Angela this afternoon. I’ll take it to Springfield. There’s a shed we can padlock. She’ll be cool in there. Then hope the wind drops tomorrow, at least enough to get a helicopter in.’
In this exchange we see the device of the plot – this is a variation on the Golden Age theme of the enclosed group cut off from outside help and expertise. It also reflects the theme of the novel: that secrets grow and become poisonous in the small community.
Learn more about the novel and author at Ann Cleeves's website and online diary.

The Page 99 Test: Raven Black.

The Page 99 Test: White Nights.

The Page 99 Test: Red Bones.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue