Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Shetland whodunnit woos tourists

By Mike Grundon
BBC Scotland

The island backdrop has helped propel the author into the bestseller lists

The latest book in a bestselling series of crime novels set in Shetland is to be launched in Lerwick.

Red Bones, the third book by award-winning writer Ann Cleeves, features fictional island detective Jimmy Perez.

The plot takes Perez to an archaeological dig on the island of Whalsay, with some real-life islanders.

The previous two books were translated into 16 languages and have been credited with boosting tourism to Shetland.

Shetland's senior archaeologist Val Turner helped the author with technical aspects of the story and was rewarded with an appearance as a fictional character.

There's that sense that people would really love to be living here.
Ann Cleeves

The archaeologist said: "It's a remarkable experience and I'm sure in a few years time I'll be absolutely convinced that all this happened and that I really have had dinner with Jimmy Perez.

"Ann did say to me it didn't have to be me at all. I could be turned into an elderly, bearded archaeologist, but in fact I was delighted."

Award winning

The first book of the series, Raven Black earned Ann Cleeves one of the richest prizes in crime fiction, the Duncan Lawrie Dagger.

She had been an author for many years but only became a bestseller when she was inspired to use Britain's northernmost islands as a backdrop to her next book.

Ann Cleeves
The author once worked as a cook at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory

Thirty years earlier she had worked as a cook at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory. She now puts her international success down to landscape she evokes in her stories.

She said: "Everybody, especially if they live in a city, has this dream of living somewhere more remote, somewhere where you know your neighbours.

"People can read the books and, although they're quite thought-provoking and they're not terribly pleasant always, there's that sense that people would really love to be living here."

If Shetland has helped Ann Cleeves achieve international fame, the author has also helped Shetland by putting the islands on the map for many of her readers. Tourists are now turning up in the islands purely to see the locations she uses.

The fame of her books and the islands are likely to get an even greater boost when Raven Black is dramatised for the popular BBC Radio 4 Saturday afternoon slot. Her other books may follow suit.

Local enthusiasm

There is one more book yet to come in the series, known as the Shetland Quartet, but her fans in the islands are hoping it will not be the last the world hears of Jimmy Perez.

For her part, Ann Cleeves said the strong local enthusiasm for her work was extremely important to her.

She said: "Do you know what made me more excited? Better than being in the top five in Sweden? It was finding out that they were the most borrowed books in the Shetland libraries. I loved that."

An auction which offered fans the chance to feature in the next Jimmy Perez book has raised 2,500 for the Shetland charity Vaila's Fund, set up in memory of teenager Vaila Harvey who died from cancer last year.

Following the launch at the Shetland Library in Lerwick, there will be book signing events in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and at the Aye Write Literature Festival in Glasgow.

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