I do not have a TV, my friend always tells me that without a telly I cannot fully participate in British culture. Probably she’s right, but every time I go to hers and we try to find something watchable on telly we fail miserably. So I consciously decided not to take part in that part of British culture. I do however watch some of the BBC series when they are available on Netflix, so what I’m missing are the reality-shows of all sorts and I really don’t care about those. I know this may seem unrelated to this post, but it is, just let me explain.
As I started reading Raven Black, some fifty pages into the book I realized that the way I am imagining the things I read about is very different to how it usually works, a lot more vivid, specific and movie-like. As if I was remembering things rather than thinking about them for the first time. I have never been to Shetland Islands, so remembering reality was out of the question. Finally I gave up and started googling and of course there is a series made by BBC based on Cleeves books. I think I saw the Raven Black episodes when I was dog sitting for my friend. With that mystery solved I could dive into the book, the fact that I did not remember the story, but only the atmosphere and some scenes, definitely helped.
The story is simple, in a small and isolated community a young girl is murdered. There are some newcomers to the place, some people who recently returned and some that have been there forever. There is also an obligatory ‘weird old man’, who becomes the prime suspect. Cleeves constructs the narrative around her characters rather than a fast paced plot. She builds them out adding depth and forming a group portrait of an isolated community ruled by its own politics and traditions. On one hand the atmosphere is oppressive with strangers not being easily accepted; on the other she does not overdo it, she does not create an evil, wicked village, but manages to keep the balance between the good and the bad sides of living in such sheltered place. She relates the sense of security and power that such place gives to some people, but also how stuffy and oppressive it can feel for others, how the murder throws all community off their normal state and makes everyone a little bit more suspicious and worried about the things they’d like to hide.
It was a good book with interesting characters and setting and the series added to my experience the vivid images of desolate and harsh landscape.