Detective Jimmy Perez knows it will be a difficult homecoming when he returns to Fair Isle to introduce his fiancée, Fran, to his parents. It's a community where everyone knows each other, and strangers, while welcomed, are still viewed with a degree of mistrust.
Challenging to live on at the best of times, with the autumn storms raging, the island feels cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped, tension is high and tempers become frayed.
Enough to drive someone to murder...
When a woman's body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isle bird observatory, with feathers threaded through her hair, the islanders react with fear and anger. With no support from the mainland and only Fran to help him, Jimmy has to investigate the old-fashioned way. He soon realises that this is no crime of passion - but a murder of cold and calculated intention.
With no way off the island until the storms abate, Jimmy knows he has to work quickly. There's a killer on the island just waiting for the opportunity to strike again.
Andrew Taylor, writing in the Spectator, said: "As usual, the plotting is strong and the background fascinating. Cleeves is particularly good at assembling domestic detail that adds a cumulative poignancy and depth to her characters' lives. The narrative builds to a truly shocking climax with a grimly convincing epilogue."
Award-winning crime writer Frances Fyfield said: "This is a real, page turning thriller. It is beautifully crafted, belonging to the golden age of well-fashioned detective fiction. Clues, red herrings, isolation, birds, wings, feathers, unusual passions made understood. I simply could not put it down... a terrific, atmospheric novel."
Blue Lightning was chosen by John Lanchester as one of his (two) books of the year in the Telegraph Review (20.11.2010).
Antonia Fraser, writing in The Lady, was hooked: and having read Blue Lightning went on to read the rest of the quartet - but she recommends reading them in chronological order!
If you are looking for a well-crafted Agatha Christie-type murder mystery with a strong atmosphere, you cannot do better than turn to Ann Cleeves.
Antonia Fraser, The Lady
Locate Fair Isle on a map of Shetland.
Clare Dudman interviews Ann about Blue Lightning (and snails).
In the UK
Blue Lightning was first published in the UK by Pan Macmillan on February 5th 2010:
In the US
The US edition of Blue Lightning was published by Minotaur Books on September 28, 2010; the paperback edition followed on July 2nd 2015.
It is available from Borders.com, BN.com and Amazon.com (who also list the paperback and Kindle editions) or buy it from your local bookstore (if they don't have it in stock, tell them the ISBN is 978-0-3123-8435-7).
"Cleeves has found a way of transforming the closed-circle elements that made Golden Age detective fiction so satisfying... [Blue Lightning] delivers the unexpected: a fully satisfying novel, rather than a genre formula."
Judith Flanders, TLS
"Ann Cleeves has shown that if you go far enough north, Britain boasts bone-chilling backdrops that rival anything the Scandinavian crime writers can offer for bleakness.... Cleeves's ability to combine old-fashioned, well-crafted plotting with psychological penetration makes her a rare bird herself."
Jake Kerridge, Telegraph
"...a subtle, slow-burning writer, a brilliant builder of atmosphere."
Kate Saunders, Saga Magazine
"The definitive detective thriller... The pace quickens and rises steadily to a thrilling and violent crescendo. The is end is completely unpredictable and shocking... Beautifully crafted and exciting with a gripping storyline, this is a must for those who like their fiction mature and thoughtful and their authors intelligent and imaginative."
Sunday Express (Five star review)
"Blue Lightning, the final book in Ann Cleeves' Shetland Quartet, is also the best and the darkest."
Marcel Berlins, The Times
"A sound, traditional detective novel, with a delightful setting and shock ending"
"Great atmospheric suspense."
Henry Sutton, The Mirror
"Cleeves is excellent not just on the mystery, but on the atmosphere of Fair Isle, and the effect of its strange character on the human population."
Jane Jakeman, The Independent
"As usual, the plotting is strong and the background fascinating. Cleeves is particularly good at assembling domestic detail that adds a cumulative poignancy and depth to her characters' lives. The narrative builds to a truly shocking climax with a grimly convincing epilogue."
Andrew Taylor, The Spectator
"This is a real, page turning thriller. It is beautifully crafted, belonging to the golden age of well-fashioned detective fiction. Clues, red herrings, isolation, birds, wings, feathers, unusual passions made understood. I simply could not put it down... a terrific, atmospheric novel."
"Ann Cleeves has cleverly set up a traditional murder mystery (with an explicit nod to Agatha Christie) on an isolated island with few suspects and little outside involvement, yet has made it a plausible, fresh, compelling modern tale."
Maxine Clarke, Eurocrime
"The tension simply builds up and up as more and more pieces of information emerge about the characters leading to an exciting and gripping denouement"
"As in Ann Cleeves' earlier Shetland mysteries, the trick here is to utilise the apparatus of the Christie-style murder mystery (most notably the cloistered, cut-off setting) and reinvigorate it with a healthy dose of plausible contemporary psychology. This Cleeves does splendidly..."
Barry Forshaw, Amazon
"Like the marvellous P.D. James, Cleeves uses setting to drive both character and narrative. The Shetlands - small, isolated, with a unique culture - is the perfect spot for her, and her detective, Inspector James (Jimmy) Perez is the perfect copper."
"Cleeves is an amazing mystery writer and I strongly encourage you to check out this series and Cleeves' earlier works."
Read@MPL (Milwaukee Public Library blog, via the Internet Archive)