Another fine mess for Inspector Jimmy Perez to solve and another great story from Ann Cleeves in her Shetland series. I was a bit concerned because I had seen this story in the television series. The plot is so different that this was not a problem. Ann seems to have settled the main elements of the characters after her first two books. So there is less need to sensation to attract readers. This story is the best yet and looking forward to more to come.
Bones are discovered in an archaeological dig on Whalsay Island in the Shetland Group. Shortly after Sandy Wilson finds the body of his grandmother who owns the land. A horrible shooting accident. Later there is another death at the site. The apparent suicide of one of the archaeologist shortly after another important find.
Perez become increasingly suspicious. Sandy starts to uncover family secrets that could point to a motive. It takes a while to uncover the truth as most of the main players have dark secrets. The families are also closely involved in the past.
Perez and Sandy have to track down all of the secrets and the dark past. This is hard for Sandy as it is his family that seems to be the key. Even as they close in on the truth how then will they find the proof.
Another fine effort from Ann in the tradition of the great murder mysteries. Up the with Agatha, Morse, and Gently. The quietly spoken detective who listens and let's the people talk. We can also find parallels to Shakespeare in Macbeth and Hamlet.
The Shetland Islands make a great setting for these books. Wild and isolated and peopled with characters who have lived through hard times and survived. Survival and death forges strong relationships where incidents are forgiven but not forgotten. Family and their ties to the land are also strong. Sophia the other archeologist on the dig and outsider expresses to Perez that "Islanders won't leave it behind. They have no free will. Or they will not let themselves have".
The other aspect of Island life that Perez uses is the knowledge that each person has of others. Sophie despairs to Perez that everyone knows your business. Perez must separate the fact from gossip but his empathy, and that he is a local, enables people to open up.
This is a closed community which makes it perfect for a story about murder. As Sophie says "Once the fog comes down nothing outside matters". This contains the suspects and the action though some do leave the island for short periods.
There are a couple of little irritations. Ann uses colloquial terms but does not provide a glossary. This requires an Internet search that isn't always in context. I believe that Ann may be trying to convey that the reader is from down south (is an outsider).
Sandy has a job but what is his role. Presumably he is a detective but people's opinions of his abilities seem to suggest he would need to have a lot more experience to be that. Another mystery.
The romance with Fran Hunter has moved on but still of two different people with all sorts of back stories. Then there is the daughter Cassie who seems to have no reservations in loving Jimmy. In the TV series she is grown up and we miss this important part of the story. The need to maintain a consistent cast requires the TV stories to be contemporaneous which is a shame. But it means that you can watch and read both without a problem.
There is a wealth of beautiful scenery to keep the reader occupied. These books would certainly increase the appeal of the islands to tourism. Though a long stay would be the only way to properly appreciate the Islands and to get to know the characters.
Ann does a great job with the characters and how they become real. Survival drives great passions and jealousy which can either lead to a calm acceptance of heritage and place. Or, to start business or undertake dangerous occupations like fishing. There is no romance in fishing. The lure is the big money for short periods. Either way the islanders have plenty of time on their hands. A sure recipe for darkness.
These stories are in a class of their own. They will appeal to all types of readers who will for a short time enter a magical world in safety knowing that unlike the characters we can return.
- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Pan; New Edition edition (8 September 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1447274466
- ISBN-13: 978-1447274469
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.6 x 19.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 222 g
- Average Customer Review: 14 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 16,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)