Ann Cleeves' Shetland series

17 August 2016

By Pan Macmillan

The Shetland series is a bestselling, critically-acclaimed series of crime novels by Ann Cleeves, which has also been made into a hit TV series on BBC One starring Douglas Henshall as Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez.

Set in the isolated Scottish Shetland isles, Detective Inspector Perez and his police colleagues become entwined in the tight-knit island community as they investigate mysterious disappearances, murders and the darkest secrets of Scotland's most northerly isles. The first novel in the series, Raven Black, was awarded the Duncan Lawrie Dagger (CWA Gold Dagger) for Best Crime Novel. 

Cold Earth, the new Shetland novel, is Ann Cleeves' 30th book in 30 years! To celebrate Ann has written a murder mystery based around a traditional Shetland Sunday Tea. Scroll down to download the murder mystery pack.

Raven Black

It is a cold January morning and Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter's eye is drawn to a vivid splash of colour on the white ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour Catherine Ross. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance...

The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man - loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when police insist on opening out the investigation a veil of suspicion and fear is thrown over the entire community. For the first time in years, Catherine's neighbours nervously lock their doors, whilst a killer lives on in their midst.

Start reading Raven Black

White Nights

When Shetland detective Jimmy Perez finds a body in a hut used by fishermen it seems to be a straightforward case of suicide. He recognizes the victim - a stranger with amnesia who had disrupted a local party the night before his death.

Yet this is no desperate act of anguish, but the work of a cold and calculating killer. As Perez investigates, he finds himself mired in the hidden secrets of the small Biddista community. Then another body is found.
Perez knows he must break the cycle before another death occurs. But this is a crazy time of year when night blurs into day and nothing is quite as it seems...

Start reading White Nights

Red Bones

When an elderly woman is shot in what appears to be a tragic accident, Shetland detective Jimmy Perez is called to investigate the mystery.

The sparse landscape and the emptiness of the sea have bred a fierce and secretive people. As Jimmy looks to the islanders for answers, he finds instead two feuding families whose envy, greed and bitterness have lasted generations.

Then there's another murder and, as the spring weather shrouds the island in claustrophobic mists, Jimmy must dig up old secrets to stop a new killer from striking again...

Start reading Red Bones

Blue Lightning

With the autumn storms raging, Fair Isle feels cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped, tension is high and tempers become frayed. Enough to drive someone to murder...

A woman's body is discovered at the renowned Fair Isles bird observatory, with feathers threaded through her hair. The islanders react with fear and anger. Detective Jimmy Perez has no support from the mainland and must investigate the old-fashioned way. He soon realizes that this is no crime of passion - but a murder of cold and calculated intention.

There's no way off the island until the storms abate - and so the killer is also trapped, just waiting for the opportunity to strike again.

Start reading Blue Lightning

Dead Water

When the body of journalist Jerry Markham is found in a traditional Shetland boat, outside the house of the local public prosecutor, down at the Marina, young Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted in to head up the investigation.

Since the death of his fiancée, Inspector Jimmy Perez has been out of the loop, but his interest in this new case is stirred and he decides to help the inquiry. Markham - originally a Shetlander but who had made a name for himself in London - had left the islands years before. In his wake, he left a scandal involving a young girl, Evie Watt, who is now engaged to a seaman. He had few friends in Shetland, so why was he back?

Willow and Jimmy are led to Sullum Voe, the heart of Shetland's North Sea oil and gas industry. It soon emerges from their investigation that Markham was chasing a story in his final days. One that must have been significant enough to warrant his death...

Start reading Dead Water

Thin Air

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. But late on the night of the wedding party, one of them, Eleanor, disappears - apparently into thin air. It's mid-summer, a time of light nights and unexpected mists. 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.

Detectives Jimmy Perez and Willow Reeves are dispatched to Unst to investigate. Before she went missing, Eleanor claimed to have seen the ghost of a local child who drowned in the 1920s. Her interest in the ghost had seemed unhealthy - obsessive, even - to her friends: an indication of a troubled mind. But Jimmy and Willow are convinced that there is more to Eleanor's death than they first thought. Is there a secret that lies behind the myth? One so shocking that someone would kill - many years later - to protect?

Start reading Thin Air

Cold Earth

In the dark days of a Shetland winter, torrential rain triggers a landslide that crosses the main Lerwick-Sumburgh road and sweeps down to the sea.

At the burial of his old friend Magnus Tait, Jimmy Perez watches the flood of mud and peaty water smash through a croft house in its path. Everyone thinks the croft is uninhabited, but in the wreckage he finds the body of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress. In his mind, she shares his Mediterranean ancestry and soon he becomes obsessed with tracing her identity.

Then it emerges that she was already dead before the landslide hit the house. Perez knows he must find out who she was, and how she died.

Cold Earth is published in October 2016

Find out more

More Shetland books


An archipelago of more than a hundred islands, it is the one of the most remote places in the United Kingdom. Its fifteen hundred miles of shore mean that wherever one stands, there is a view of the sea. It has sheltered voes and beaches and dramatically exposed cliffs, lush meadows full of wild flowers in the summer and bleak hilltops where only the hardiest of plants will grow. It is a place where traditions are valued and celebrated, but new technologies and ways of working are also embraced.

In this gloriously illustrated companion to her novels, Ann Cleeves takes readers through a year on Shetland, learning about its past, meeting its people, celebrating its festivals and seeing how the flora and fauna of the islands changes with the seasons. Whether it is the drama of the Viking fire festival of Up Helly Aa in winter, or the piercing blue and hot pink of spring flowers on the clifftops, the long, white nights of midsummer or the fierce gales and high tides of autumn, Shetland is vividly captured in all its bleak and special beauty.

Take a look inside

Too Good Too Be True

Too Good To Be True is a gripping Quick Read from Ann Cleeves, featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez from the bestselling Shetland series.

When young teacher Anna Blackwell is found dead in her home, the police think her death was suicide or a tragic accident. After all, Stonebridge is a quiet country village in the Scottish Borders, where murders just don't happen.

But Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez soon arrives from far-away Shetland when his ex-wife, Sarah, asks him to look into the case. The local gossips are saying that her new husband, Tom, was having an affair with Anna. Could Tom have been involved with her death? Sarah refuses to believe it - but needs proof.

Anna had been a teacher. She must have loved kids. Would she kill herself knowing there was nobody to look after her daughter? She had seemed happier than ever before she died. And to Perez, this suggests not suicide, but murder...

Start reading Too Good To Be True

A Murder Mystery by Ann Cleeves

To celebrate 30 years of publishing and 30 books, Ann Cleeves – bestselling crime writer of Vera and Shetland fame – has written a murder mystery based around a traditional Shetland Sunday Tea. 

1. A script for 4 actors. This is a specially written script by Ann Cleeves, the setting is a Shetland Sunday Tea and reference is made to the Shetland detective Jimmy Perez
2. PDFs of professionally designed posters, tickets and the competition form ensuring the promotional material looks attractive
3. A running order and guide for planning the event
4.  A template press release to send out to local media
5. Recipes for a traditional Shetland tea accompanied by each chef’s story

1. 4 actors – 2 men and 2 women. They don’t need to learn lines but should be confident about reading a short monologue in front of an audience. These could be staff members, but if you approach your local amateur dramatic society or FE college performance students, you could be introducing new people into your shop or library
2. Someone to host and chair the event
3. Books by Ann Cleeves for sale. Libraries can do this through Pan Macmillan, through their usual library supplier or by inviting a local bookseller to sell on their behalf
4. Scrap paper and pencils so people can take notes – some do take this event very seriously!
5. Encourage attendees to bring along some homebaking in the spirit of a Shetland Sunday Tea. The packs also include recipes should any of the organizers want to create some authentic fayre

Download the murder mystery pack

Download the Shetland tea recipes

Download the event poster

Download the editable press release template


You may also like

Cold Earth
Thin Air
Raven Black
Red Bones
White Nights
Blue Lightning
Dead Water
Too Good To Be True