Monday, December 17, 2018

“Wild Fire” by Ann Cleeves

It’s the end of the road for Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez of the Shetland Police Force.

Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves is the eighth and final volume in the Shetland mystery series. Cleeves is ending the popular series because, she says, she’s told all the stories she wanted to tell and she likes Shetlanders too much to kill off any more of them.

Two more die in Wild Fire.

A young nanny is found hanging in a barn of a home owned by English transplants. The nanny works for another family, and the scene is the site of the suicide of the man who previously owned the property. Forensic examination determines that the young woman was already dead when the body was hung. Her purse and shoes are also nowhere to be found.

Perez and his officer Sandy Wilson begin the investigation, but he’s required to call the case in to Aberdeen, and Willow Reeves arrives to lead. We met Reeves in Cold Earth, when she and Perez were investigating a case and soon found themselves investigating each other. Perez has deep feelings for Reeves, but he’s still not over the death of his fiancée Fran, for which he bears a sense of guilt. 

Reeves arrives with some surprise news. She’s pregnant with Perez’s child. Perez responds with anger, believing he’s been taken advantage of or, at worst, used. He knew Reeves had wanted to have a child. The tensions of investigating the murder are overlaid with the tensions of their relationship.

They run across a woman who has a rather spiteful, gossiping tongue, and whose son was involved with the dead woman. Her gossiping tongue apparently gets her into more trouble than she expected; she’s found dead, a victim of strangling. The investigation of the two murders takes Perez and Reeves deep into the lives of the two families involved.

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.

As an enthusiastic reader of the Shetland books and an enthusiastic fan of the television program, I’m of two minds about the ending of the series. On the one hand, both the books and the TV program are highly entertaining, with those stark brooding Shetland vistas matching the brooding perspective of Perez. On the other hand, when it’s time for an author to stop a series, the author knows it. And perhaps it’s best to go out on a high note.

Wild Fire is as much the story of Willow Reeves as it is of Jimmy Perez. It leaves fewer clues as to the murderer’s identity for the reader than the previous books, and the solution could have gone in any of several ways – possible motives littered the Shetland landscape. 

But the series is done, and we wish Detective Inspector Perez and his boss Willow Reeves the best in their new career undertakings.


Top photograph: A view of Lerwick, the largest town in the Shetland Islands and the home base for Jimmy Perez. By Erik via Wikimedia Commons.

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