There is something unique about this series, set in the Shetland Islands off England. The descriptions of the sea, the scenery, the houses, and the quaint and mostly quiet lifestyle are helpful in creating the setting. Our inspector hero is back after battling depression ensuing from the death of his lady love. He gingerly gets back into investigating two murders after taking time off to recover, all the while continuing to take care of her daughter, Cassie, because the natural father doesn't want to be bothered with anything but visits. The islands may seem calm and sedate but passions run deep and there are crimes to solve.
I'm a big admirer of Ann Cleeves and have enjoyed the Shetland Island series tremendously. Like most Cleeves fans, I was happy to see her return to the Shetland locale and looked forward to the revival of principal, Jimmy Perez. "Dead Water" gets off to a fine start, with wonderful descriptions of the austere and dramatic landscape and the contemporary post "oil-boom" status of the islands. A murder is committed early on and brings the introduction of the main characters--including a still-grieving Perez, an off-island detective, and local deputy Sandy Wilson (who is given a leading role in this novel).
The procedural that takes up most of this book is classic Cleeves and deliciously serpentine and translucent, BUT somewhere in the last few chapters, the story just loses steam. The back-and-forth between the investigating characters seems increasingly forced and the tone of things slips into the melodramatic. By the conclusion--which isn't up to Cleeves' usual standards--the reader (this reader, at least), is pretty tired of the universally traumatized characters and not ready to buy the motives presented for crime(s)--especially for a second murder that is staged in such a way that leave even the book's principals disbelieving.
The good news about "Dead Water" is that Jimmy Perez has been resuscitated and will probably be back in a sequel. Hopefully, the author will have regained full footing for the next installment.
In the opening pages of Dead Water we learn that Perez’s fiancée has “died in the autumn, in a storm that battered his Fair Isle home . . .”, etc. Then in Chapter Six, we learn “how his fiancée got caught up in a murder investigation on Fair Isle, how she’d been stabbed by a psycho and how Jimmy blamed himself . . .” etc.
I’ll be honest: I’m only here reading this series because of 3 things: the television show; the Shetland Islands; and Douglas Henshall. Cleeves does one thing really well: leaves you parked inside just a few characters in detail whilst the events unfold all round. Might be the murderer; might not, but the deep dips into the individual gestures, thoughts and habits from an individual and isolated perspective in the story is good stuff.
But anomalies like the foregoing produce an exponentially negative effect on my enjoyment. Like every mystery/detective reader, I go for the clues, the details, with the expectation that the author is in full possession of them themselves and is leaving me a path of speculation, discovery. Little things like that might hide bigger things, so I become suspect of the author, and I’m disappointed it’s happened with Ann Cleeves. In Red Bones an even less significant anomaly takes place in a single scene involving the clothing the character of Sophie was wearing in the Pier House Bar. It changes.
All up, going to Shetland this way is atmospheric and largely engaging. Cleeves has her occasional moments with the literarily satisfying. But reading these books has mostly increased my admiration for the television team, its careful, selective script writers; its sublime cinematography; and Douglas Henshall. The elegant economy of his Perez has more in it than pages of indulgent descriptions from the book.
The story begins with the chief prosecutor finding a body arranged over the seats of her boat with his briefcase by his side. It turns out to be a local man, a journalist who's gone to London to make his mark. He may have been on the trail of a scandal involving an environmental group. Or he may have been blackmailing someone.
An outsider is brought in to work the case, but she soon discovers she needs someone with community ties and finds Detective Jimmy Perez.
Jimmy is taking a leave from the department due to mental problems. He's also looking after his dead lover's child while recovering from her violent death, a responsibility that keeps him sane. But he's gradually drawn into the case when locals seem to be involved.
Another murder, then another and Jimmy forgets his own tragedy to weave the facts together and unmask a killer.
Having read the first four Shetland Island Thrillers, I was so deflated that there were no more. I loved Cleeves' writing style and her her descriptive power. I wanted to be there, to see and experience everything. I have numerous authors that I read as soon as a new book comes out, and now I was an Ann Cleeves fan. I read all of the Vera Stanhope novels, which were equally well written and superb! I searched Amazon for more eBooks, and, finding none, I ordered five paperbacks--from five different booksellers at Amazon--so that I could read more. All were excellent books, but the Shetland Island books were outstanding. I was thrilled to find her latest novel, Dark Waters, and I read it way too quickly. This series must be read in order, so don't read this one until you've read the first four. I promise, if you like the first, you will become a fan. My favorite books are not terribly similar, but I offer this for comparison. If you enjoy Greg Iles, Daniel Silva, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Stieg Larsen, and other great mystery/thriller writers, you are probably an unborn Cleeves' fan.