Unst is the northernmost island in the Shetland Islands. To reach it by car requires two ferry rides from Aberdeen, involving more than 12 hours on the boat. And it is to Unst that two couples from London drive, to celebrate the wedding of a third London couple. The groom is form Unst, and family and friends want to celebrate.
While they’re there, they hear the story of Perrie Lizzie, or Little Lizzie, a 10-year-old girl who drowned in 1930 and whose ghost supposedly haunts the beaches and lanes. The wife of one of the couples is an independent broadcast journalist, and she says she’s seen the ghost. She’s also considering a documentary on ghosts. Then she’s found dead, the body posed almost to look like a painting.
Inspector Jimmy Perez is called from Lerwick, Shetland’s main city. He’s assisted by Sergeant Sandy Wilson. And technically, they’re both reporting to Willow Reeves, the police woman from the mainland who’s the official crime investigation lead. But everyone, including the suspects, knows that if the murder is going to going to be solved, it’s Perez who will find the killer. And he’s still trying to get over the death of his fiancée.
Thin Air is the fifth Inspector Jimmy Perez novel by Ann Cleeves, and it‘s a solid, well-plotted, gripping story. Cleeves deftly weaves the ghost legend, the stories of the three couples from London which grow increasingly complicated, and the involvement of the local Unst residents. Motives abound, as do the suspects. As the investigation unfolds, surprises happen, hidden facts emerge (or are dragged into the light), and the understanding of the past and present unravels.
Cleeves has published eight mysteries in the Jimmy Perez / Shetland series, including Raven Black (2008), Red Bones (2009), White Nights (2010), Blue Lightning (2011), Dead Water (2014), Thin Air (2015), and Cold Earth(2017), with Wild Fire publishing this week – and it’s the last of the Jimmy Perez mysteries, says Cleeves.. She’s also published eight mystery novels in the Vera Stanhope series (also a television series), six Inspector Stephen Ramsay mysteries, and several others works and short stories. The Jimmy Perez novels are the basis for the BBC television series “Shetland.” Cleeves lives in northeastern England.
Cleeves is a consistently good mystery writer, and Thin Air is as consistently good as its predecessors.
Top photograph: A view of Unst in the Shetland Islands, via VisitScotland. In fact, this photo is the basis for the artwork of my paperback edition of the book.
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