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by Anne Cleeves
Macmillan, February 2013
400 pages
$19.99 CAD
ISBN: 1447229576

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

At one point in this fifth in the Shetland quartet (!), detective Jimmy Perez says that the story is all about redemption and transformation. This seems an apt description of a plot that involves terrible things the various characters have done to one another in the past, and the desire of at least some of those characters to make amends. Through it all, Jimmy is transformed as he slowly emerges from the depression he entered after events from BLUE LIGHTENING.

The book opens with Rhona Liang, the Fiscal (public prosecutor) who has appeared in the previous books, finding the body of Jerry Markham, a hot-shot reporter who grew up in the area, dead in her boat. As the new Detective Inspector Willow Reeves takes on the case, the Fiscal distances herself from it and Jimmy eases back into his work by assisting. The domestic intrigues on the Island take place in the context of the politics surrounding alternative energy, and all of the characters seem to be involved in both domestic and political strife.

The interconnections among the characters bring new life to the phrase, "It's a small world." Markham, and a subsequent murder victim, John Henderson, were both involved with the same young woman, and they were both somehow connected to the effort to bring tidal energy to town. The Fiscal also had a connection to both men and to the alternative energy efforts. Both Markham and Henderson had amends to make, and the events of the story are strongly impacted by their attempts at redemption and transformation.

It's not clear until the end of the book whether the motivation for the murders was personal or political, and Willow and Jimmy are at odds about this throughout. There may be the beginning of a romantic relationship developing between the two; future books in the second quartet will have to tell. Having read the previous four books in the series was very helpful in understanding Jimmy's state of mind in this book. A new reader could probably pick the series up here, but then s/he would be in the same confused state as Willow as she attempts to understand Jimmy's actions.

This was not my favorite of the series. I have always loved Cleeve's descriptions of Shetland life, and I felt as though this element played a smaller role in this book than the others. So much of the reader's understanding of what is happening takes place through dialogue that the visual image that Cleeves has always been able to create for me was sketchier than usual. Nonetheless, it was great to meet up with Jimmy again, and I will certainly be anxiously awaiting the next in the series.

Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, June 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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