Throwback Thursday this week is looking back at book five in one of my favourite series.
Despite my preference for starting a series from book one, I’m beginning with this one, which is actually book five. I’ve watched and enjoyed each season of the TV series, Shetland, and so I’m very familiar with the cast of characters. There are some differences between the two, mainly in Jimmy Perez’s looks and back story. Kenny Blyth, the narrator, is excellent and has a lovely Scottish lilt, which fits in well with the story and adds authenticity. Other accents are convincing too. The narrator of the four previous books has a middle to upper class English accent which I didn’t find engaging or appropriate for the setting.
So, on to the story. Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez is on extended leave after a personal tragedy. He’s finding it very hard to cope with much more than taking care of his step daughter, Cassie, and living from day-to-day. Jerry Markham, a Islander who left to find fame as a journalist in London, returns to Shetland with an agenda of his own and is found murdered, his body left in the Procurator Fiscal’s yoal. Rhona Laing rows with Aith women’s team but generally keeps herself aloof and isn’t particularly well liked.
Sergeant Sandy Wilson isn’t comfortable being left in charge while his boss, Jimmy Perez, eases himself slowly back into work and is even less so when he takes a call from the Fiscal. As Procurator Fiscal, it’s Rhona Laing’s job to supervise the murder investigation but, feeling compromised as she found the body, she steps down. Sandy must liaise with Inverness to get a Serious Crime Squad over to the islands.
Again Perez seemed surprised, though not angry or annoyed. Sandy didn’t usually stand up to him. Sandy didn’t usually stand up to anyone. And these days anger seemed to be Jimmy’s default emotion.
‘I’m sorry.’ Perez shook his head. An attempt to think more clearly? Or an expression of a kind of despair? Then, after a moment, ‘It was good of you to come and let me know.’
Sandy hovered for a moment on the doorstep. The lighthouse at Raven’s Head had been lit and the beam swung across his head. He wondered if at the last moment Perez would change his mind and be tempted to drive with him up to Aith. He’d be curious, surely. Curiosity had always driven Jimmy forward to see cases through. And for a moment Perez did seem tempted.
Heading the investigation is Willow Reeves and despite himself, Jimmy is drawn into the case. It seems initially to have something to do with a story Jerry Markham discovered involving Shetlands natural resources and the decline of the oil industry but proves to be much more complex. The third person narrative works well, giving insight from several perspectives. Lots of false trails and plot twists keep things moving along and interesting. It kept me guessing and the ending was a complete surprise.
This is my first book by Ann Cleeves and I’ve downloaded the next Shetland book on the strength of it. The writing flows easily and the characters are well drawn and realistic, each with his or her own traits and flaws. The story is convincing and involved. Ann Cleeves has the ability to depict the characters and the local culture extremely well. For all his moodiness, which is understandable given the circumstances, Jimmy Perez is one of my favourite protagonists, intrinsically decent, always a truth seeker, and very likeable. The picturesque setting and atmospheric descriptions invoke a strong sense of place and bring the islands to life vividly.
About the Book
When the body of journalist Jerry Markham is found in a traditional Shetland boat, outside the house of the local public prosecutor, down at the Marina, young Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted in to head up the investigation.
Since the death of his fiancée, Inspector Jimmy Perez has been out of the loop, but his interest in this new case is stirred and he decides to help the inquiry. Markham – originally a Shetlander but who had made a name for himself in London – had left the islands years before. In his wake, he left a scandal involving a young girl, Evie Watt, who is now engaged to a seaman. He had few friends in Shetland, so why was he back?
Willow and Jimmy are led to Sullum Voe, the heart of Shetland’s North Sea oil and gas industry. It soon emerges from their investigation that Markham was chasing a story in his final days. One that must have been significant enough to warrant his death . . .