Wednesday, October 24, 2018

“Cold Earth” by Ann Cleeves

It’s an evocative image: rain, months of rain, and a funeral on a hillside cemetery. Right after the coffin is lowered into the grave, the land slips. The mourners, including Detective Jimmy Perez of the Shetland Island Police, have to run to avoid the tons of moving earth as the hill slides downward. The landslide engulfs a small house, thought to be vacant. But then a woman’s body is found in what used to be the house’s garden.

The woman did not die in the landslide. She was dead before the landslide began. Strangled.

Thus begins Cold Earth, the seventh in the Jimmy Perez mystery series by Ann Cleeves.

Perez is joined in the investigation by his deputy, Sandy Wilson, and technically has to report to Willow Reeves from Aberdeen, the detective officially in charge. While Perez is continuing to mourn the death of his fiancée, he finds himself increasingly drawn to Reeves as she is to him, adding a layer of tension to the suspense of the story.

The victim appears to be the American who owns the property but lives in New York. Then the investigators learn that the dead woman was only using the owner’s name. She turns out to have been an actress who had enjoyed a brief period of fame 15 years before. But what was she doing in Shetland, in that house?

Ann Cleeves
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 published in September. 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 fine writer, able to combine geography with mystery to the point where the landscape becomes a character (and sometimes a suspect).  I guessed the identity of the murderer in Cold Earth, but I didn’t know why, because the motive seemed hidden. It comes out in the end, in a bit of back story catch-up, but that doesn’t detract from the overall story.

I’ll be reviewing Wild Fire, the last of the Jimmy Perez mysteries (Cleeves is ending the series), in a few weeks. But she’s produced a video to mark the conclusion.

Farewell to Perez: Ann Cleeves’ last Shetland book

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