I have been a great fan of Ann Cleeve’s books for years; I used to borrow her Inspector Ramsay featuring Stephen Ramesey… who was a police inspector, of course! She wrote six in the series, and I reread them recently; they were first published over twenty years ago, and rereading them I enjoyed them very much. I wonder if they too will be made into a TV series? I also read some of her George and Molly Palmer Jones which she had written earlier – and rereading them I felt they hadn’t quite stood the test of time… but I think Ms Cleeves thinks the same! Interesting all the same but not really very gripping.
I must admit I semi-forgot Ann Cleeves, until I found ‘Raven Black’ in 2006 in a bookshop… I remembered her name remembered I’d enjoyed Inspector Ramsey, bought it – and I was hooked! This was the first in the Shetland series, and six more have followed and I have enjoyed everyone. Ann Cleeves also wrote a series of books about a detective called Vera; for some reason I didn’t come across them until a TV series was made, starring Brenda Blethyn. I know Brenda Blethyn is a great actress, but I just find her performances so mannered that I didn’t watch any of Vera… and only recently read the books – which are tremendous! If you, like me have been put off the series – please do try the books!
To return to Shetland… a TV series has also been made based on the characters in Ann Cleeves books about Jimmy Perez and his team of Shetland Isle detectives and police officers. When the first series was broadcast I was dismayed to find that the actor was not the least bit like the way Perez is described. As you can tell from his name, he has Spanish ancestry – he is supposed to be dark-haired among the other fair-hared islanders. He stands out he is different, and in the books he was born on Fair Isle, an island between the Shetlands and the Orkneys.. The actor playing Perez is Douglas Henshall, who is Scottish, but blond and blue-eyed. Other characters are played by actors nothing like those in the book… However… the standard and quality of acting is so exceptional, and the writing of the series is so good that these quibbles have dribbled a way…
In a previous series, one of the characters Alison McIntosh, aka Tosh, is played by Alison O’Donnell, suffered a major and traumatic attack. In some series when something like this happens to a character after some counselling they are fine and it as if nothing ever happened to them. In real life an assault like this is something a person can never escape. The subtlety of Alison O”Donnell’s performance is incredible – her face may be impassive but the expression in her eyes, her body language, tiny movements of her head. What an actress!
All the actors are excellent, but the gold medal in this series must go to Stephen Walters who plays the part of Thomas Malone, released from prison after his conviction for murder was overturned, and who returns to Shetland, the scene of the now unsolved crime. Malone is an outsider an odd-ball, a man who even before the crime twenty-three years ago was seen as eccentric, and weird. He returns to his home and most people are convinced that he actually is guilty… and then another young girl is murdered. Stephen Walters portrays a tortured soul, loathed and hated, in despair, frightened, angry and almost suicidal – trapped and unable to escape his ghastly situation.
Here is some more information about the characters and actors
If you can access BBC iplayer, you can catch up with all the episodes for the next month: