- Audiobook Review
- Author: Ann Cleeves
- Performed by Kenny Blyth
- Released: May 2015 by Macmillan Audio
- Category: Crime, Suspense, Thriller
A group of old university friends leave the bright lights of London and travel to Unst, Shetland’s most northerly island, to celebrate the marriage of one of their friends to a Shetlander. But late on the night of the wedding party, one of them, Eleanor, disappears – apparently into thin air.
As Caroline and Lowrie’s hamefarin’, the Shetland leg of their wedding celebrations, winds down, Caroline’s friends, Polly and Eleanor with their respective partners, return to their rented cottage. It’s midsummer, a time of prolonged dusk, known as the simmer dim. In the strange light earlier in the evening, Polly saw a young girl dressed in white on the shoreline.
Eleanor works in television and is taking this opportunity to investigate the local legend of Peerie Lizzie, a child who drowned in 1930 and was said to haunt the area around Meoness. Recovering from a recent miscarriage, Eleanor has been treated for depression, but tries to convince the others of the legend’s validity when she sights the ghost. She doesn’t have to convince Polly after what she saw on the beach.
Next morning Eleanor is nowhere to be found and is reported as missing. Detectives Jimmy Perez and Willow Reeves travel to Unst to investigate. Initially, after Polly receives a text supposedly from Eleanor, suicide is a theory, but when Eleanor’s body is discovered, obviously arranged in a small nearby lochan close to a standing stone, it’s apparent she’s been murdered.
As they got closer Willow saw the woman in the water. She was dark-haired and pale-skinned, and Willow saw what Perez meant about the body having been posed. Even if the victim had been taken ill or tripped into the water, she wouldn’t be lying like this, flat on her back,with her head pointed directly at the stone. And she couldn’t see how it might be suicide. ‘You say there was a note?’
‘An email,’ Perez said. ‘Sent to one of her friends. Don’t bother looking for me. You won’t find me alive.’
There’s obvious chemistry beginning between Jimmy and Willow but I’m glad Ann Cleeves has kept it very subtle. Jimmy is recovering slowly but surely from his loss and taking up the threads of his life, but for me, it wouldn’t be in character for him to begin another relationship so soon, if that’s the way it’s going. Sandy’s character is developing nicely. He still feels the need to prove himself in his work environment, even though he is showing himself to be a valuable part of the team, and his private life is taking a turn for the better.
Characters are credible and multi dimensional and that doesn’t stop with the main protagonists. The visiting friends are depicted in such a way as to give background and insight into their lives and relationships. Again, Ann Cleeves has made the setting, the characters, the island life and the community come alive with descriptive writing and evocative phrasing.
Twists and false leads abound in the well crafted story and again, I had no idea of the murderer. I enjoy the style of the writing, with the narrative changing perspective and interpretation between the characters as they work though the case. Looking forward to the next book.
About Ann Cleeves
Ann is the author of the books behind ITV’s VERA, now in its third series, and the BBC’s SHETLAND, which was first aired in December 2012. Ann’s DI Vera Stanhope series of books is set in Northumberland and features the well loved detective along with her partner Joe Ashworth. Ann’s Shetland series bring us DI Jimmy Perez, investigating in the mysterious, dark, and beautiful Shetland Islands…
Ann grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs – child care officer, women’s refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard – before going back to college and training to be a probation officer.
While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person’s not heavily into birds – and Ann isn’t – there’s not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing. Her first series of crime novels features the elderly naturalist, George Palmer-Jones. A couple of these books are seriously dreadful.
In 1987 Tim, Ann and their two daughters moved to Northumberland and the north-east provides the inspiration for many of her subsequent titles. The girls have both taken up with Geordie lads. In the autumn of 2006, Ann and Tim finally achieved their ambition of moving back to the North East.