Anne Cleeves

Macmillan, hdbk, £16.99

Released: 5th February 2010

Reviewer: Fiona Messenger

  Fiona Messenger, or “honestfi“, is “probably” the biggest Mike Ripley Angel fan on the net, and the tablets don’t seem to be working.  She tried therapy by writing a website, but that didn’t work either.  By day she’s a Payroll Consultant, other times she blogs, she writes, she reads, she enjoys making people laugh.  
The fourth in the Shetland Isles series, and Jimmy Perez has brought his fiancee home to meet his parents and for her to get a feel for life there.  As life is currently at the most extreme - storms are cutting off most forms of contact and traffic - Fran, the city mouse, is thrown in at the deep end.  She struggles with the feeling of displacement and the pull of her love for Jimmy.  Perez is not on duty, but himself is forced to take charge as a lead scientist on the island is found murdered, as the storms are unabated for several days.  He discovers the murdered woman has a checkered past, involving a number of men on the island, along with some of the regular tourists.  All of them seemingly have a motive, and Perez is convinced that jealousy played a part in her demise.  It gets all the more complicated, and dangerous, when another woman is found dead, and Perez realises that someone is trying to cover their tracks, and may stop at nothing to prevent their secret from being revealed.

The backdrop to this tale is beautifully painted; you feel the full rage of the weather that hits the more exposed part of the British Isles.  Cleeves describes the landscape with obvious love, from the ground level and wildlife, to the panoramic splendour when viewed from above.

The story, however, is just too slow for me, and at times it all feels a bit pointless.  Perez spends a long time investigating the various bedroom shenanigans of Angela (actually, it wasn't just the bedroom), but the various pieces of information he picks up serve nothing but to maybe build the character of someone who the reader sees alive only briefly.  I don't think the tension, despite the stormy backdrop, is built very convincingly either.  An interesting character is introduced early on, someone you feel could add to the plot later, but is terminated very suddenly and very early.  This of course is largely because of what she knows, but what was the point of developing her, along with her fears and plans for the future, if she has no real impact on the story?  There is a further murder, one which may prevent any future novels of this ilk, and this one is just as sudden, and I suppose is meant to be shocking.  I had just one question after it, actually.  Why?  There appeared to be no motive behind it, other than the killer felt like it.

I was exasperated by the long, drawn out ending, as Perez rakes over the story with his superior, pointlessly, because the reader should have already filled in the blanks, and he goes through the soul searching that a number of detectives seem to do when the outcome isn't totally satisfactory and there are too many dead bodies; particularly when one of them is too close to his heart.

It is obvious that there is a huge fan base for the Cleeves stories, and I can understand why, as the character of Jimmy Perez is an enduring one.  However, I prefer detective stories with twisting plots, gritty characters and fast pace.  This novel lacks on all counts.






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