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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Blue Lightning - Ann Cleeves The Book Report: Jimmy and Fran go to visit Jimmy's parents, Big James and Mary, on Fair Isle, since they're planning to be married. Big James and Mary make a nice engagement party for the happy couple at the North Light, which now serves as the centerpiece of a birding reserve and research center. Maurice and Angela, who run the reserve, have attracted the best chef *ever* in the form of Jane, a lesbian escapee from life's more hectic and less forgiving pace in London. Throw in some birders, a weird subspecies of Homo obsessivus, a misery of a teenaged daughter, a snotty young upperclass Brit-twit, and some genuinely surprising revelations about the families and lives of the characters we who are fans have come to love, and then...drumroll please...kill off an extremely main character for absolutely avoidable reasons and throw the entire cast of characters into a major tumult, and you have book four of the Shetland Islands Quartet.My Review: Oh, owww. I thought Lousy Louise Penny had hurt me as badly as a novelist could with her perfidious, horrible, and completely unforgiven emotional drubbing in book 5 of Three Pines. I suppose I should have been on the alert for a similar anguishing event because Lousy Louise herself blurbed this book. I was, however, all padded up in cotton wool, interestedly following Jimmy around his hometown Fair Isle, meeting and tutting over the characters who are slated to die; I had my murderer all picked out (I was right) and I was practically *drooling* with eagerness to see my candidate suffer, be blamed, pay for a horrible crime, a forgivable one too though honestly had the first murder gone unpunished I wouldn't've been even a little fussed about it; and then *BLAMMO* right between the eyes, *smash* went the skull with a twist I did NOT see coming; and then, and then...! Cleeves kicked me square in the teeth with the ending!!I cried. I was very upset. I felt I'd been hurt in my real life. It takes a good, good storyteller to make that happen.These are well-written books, and they convey a clear sense of life in the Shetland Islands. They're very much worth reading on that basis alone. But Cleeves creates characters that are deeply real, ones you can invest in, and that's the most important quality a writer can have. I strongly recommend the books. This one, obviously, should be saved for last; I suspect, though, given the last few lines of the book, that Cleeves's publishers have prevailed upon her to make the Quartet more open-ended. I am not at all sure I think that's a good thing, if it's true. Still, I hope you will go and procure them for your reading pleasure, because it will be a pleasure.