The excellent crime and mystery writer, Ann Cleeves, has written a series of 6 books based in the moody and gray Shetland Islands. I am reading them out of order which doesn’t seem to matter as long as you keep your time frame referenced. In the last Cleeves book I reviewed, Jimmy Perez the Islands chief detective had recovered from his wife’s death and was on the cusp of a romance with his superior officer, Willow Reeves. “Dead Water” is an earlier book and Perez is deeply mourning the death of his wife; he is on leave from his work, and is having trouble getting through his days and nights. When a body is discovered on a boat in the harbor, belonging to Rhona Laing, the public prosecutor, Willow Reeves is called in to lead the investigation. Having been born in the equally isolated beauty of the, Hebrides, she understands the nuances of life on an island.
The dead man is a London reporter who had been raised in the Shetlands. It seems he was working on a story about the demise of the oil boom and the growth of renewable energy in the islands. People were just beginning to invest in wind power and tidal energy. Jerry Markham, the reporter, has a past history. It seems he bolted off to London, leaving a young pregnant girlfriend behind. His return to home territory was unwelcome by a number of people.
As the case becomes more complicated and another death is involved, Perez cannot help being drawn into the investigation. This involvement hastens his recovery and it isn’t long before he begins to connect events and clues which at first appearance seemed to be red herrings.
If you are looking for a good mystery with dense and detailed plotting, you can’t do much better than Ann Cleeves. Unless you have been watching the Shetland series on PBS, you won’t guess the killer’s identity until the final pages. The Shetlands are a perfect setting for a murder mystery. The weather is unpredictable, often foggy and the landscape is one of bleak yet beguiling beauty.