Since there’s nothing much of interest on the TV lately, I’ve been re-watching the Shetland series. Series 6, put on hold due to Corona virus should be being filmed at the moment. The books stopped at number 6, hopefully the TV series will carry on.
I broke my own rules reading, or listening to, this series completely out of order. It’s not something I normally do but having watched each season on TV, which helps enormously with visualising the people and the locale, and at the same time becoming familiar with the characters, it’s not so much of an issue.
The story centres round an archaeological dig on Mima Wilson’s croft where a human skull has been found. Red Bones finds Sandy Wilson, Mima’s grandson, visiting family on Whalsay, a short ferry ride from Lerwick where he lives and works as a detective constable in the Shetland police force.
After a night out and a few drinks with friends, Sandy was on his way to Mima’s when he heard a shot. Assuming it would be his cousin Ronald, after rabbits, he doesn’t think too much about it. Perturbed at finding the house empty but the lights and TV on, Sandy picks up a torch and goes outside. He finds Mima in a heap on the ground. It was only when he picks her up to carry her inside he sees the blood and the wounds in her stomach.
Setter was the most sheltered croft on the island. The archaeologist who’d arrived last year from a university in the south said people had been living on that land for thousands of years. He’d asked if they might dig a few trenches in a field close to the house. A project for a post graduate student, he said. One of them had an idea that there had been a grand dwelling on the site. They’d put the land back they way they’d found it. Sandy thought Mima would have let them on anyway. She’d taken to the historian. ‘He’s a fine looking man,’ she’d said to Sandy, her eyes glittering. Sandy had seen what she must have been like as a girl. Daring. Shameless. No wonder the other island women were wary of her.
Sandy calls his boss, DI Jimmy Perez, to come over since the death involves a firearm. It seems it could be a horrible accident and Ronald miscalculated his shot in the darkness. As he begins to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mina’s death, Perez isn’t quite convinced. When another death occurs, made to look like suicide, he’s certain all isn’t as straightforward as it first appeared. Despite the uncooperative islanders, he uncovers more than he bargained for with feuds reaching back through the generations which point to secrets among families and neighbours.
As with all The Shetland novels, the atmospheric setting, detailed characterisations and small communities give a very authentic feel. Sandy’s developing maturity is evident, and Perez’s tendency to want to learn about people and their lives seems to help in his investigations and search for the truth. Interesting snippets of island history, particularly the Shetland Bus during World War II, and modern day life add to the enjoyment. These aren’t fast paced crime fiction, but offer a slow and steady building up to the final reveal, with enough false leads and twists to muddy the waters.