Meet Ann Cleeves
Ann is an award-winning crime writer who has published five novels set in
Shetland featuring police detective Jimmy Perez.
Her most recent Shetland book, Wild Fire, was published by Pan Macmillan in
September 2018. Ann has a long association with Shetland and confesses to being
with the place.
Her relationship with the archipelago began in 1975, when she took a job as
assistant cook at the Fair Isle bird observatory. She told the Daily Telegraph:
dropped out of university – I was studying English at Sussex and arrogantly
thought I could read books anywhere. I was 19, looking for adventure and was
away from a proper job.”
On Fair Isle Ann met her late husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist, and it was
on a return trip that a single stark image provided inspiration for her first
“There were lots of ravens, very black against the snow. So, because I’m a
writer, I thought, ‘What if there were blood as well? And would ravens eat a
checked with Tim, who said they would.
“Initially it was going to be a short story, and my editor said it would stretch
credibility if I wrote more than one novel. But after the good reviews and
the Dagger, we decided we could stretch to a series. My research in Shetland
now is just sitting in croft kitchens, chatting and drinking lots of tea. I
good relationships there, and I know they offered amazing support for the TV
“My first visit to Shetland was a time of dramatic change in the islands. Oil
was being extracted from the North Sea for the first time, and the big terminal
Sullom Voe in North Mainland was under construction. On my rare visits to
Shetland Mainland, Lerwick – the islands’ biggest settlement – had the feel of
town. There was an influx of people who saw the chance of making money; I
bumped into suited executives, contractors and oilmen on their way to the rigs.
Shetland has a history of people arriving from outside, though, and I think it
managed the time of transition well. It still welcomes visitors with grace and
hospitality, whether they’re tourists desperate to experience the fire festival
of Up Helly Aa or a BBC film crew. I enjoy writing about the islands just
they are dynamic, changing and energetic. Don’t come to Shetland imagining a
Viking theme park, a place fixed in the past. History is important here, but
community looks to the future...”
The award winning TV Series 'Shetland' has been adapted from Ann's books. Series
1 was based upon stories within the books, but from series 2 onwards the
written for the screen and are not based on the books, though the main
characters are the same.