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Cleeves, Ann - 'Dead Water'
Hardback: 400 pages (Jan. 2013) Publisher: Macmillan ISBN: 0230760171

"What do you want?" Perez said. "I'm not really up for entertaining. I'm not the best sort of company these days."
Sandy thought there was a hint of self-pity in his voice and perhaps work was the best thing for him at the moment. "This isn't a social call," he said and was surprised at how sharply the words came out.

Spring in Shetland and detective Jimmy Perez is on sick-leave; remembering and grieving, walking the coastline. Meanwhile Jerry Markham, local boy made good, has returned to the islands for a short stay and is taking photographs outside the oil terminal at Sullom Voe. He gets back into his red Alfa and drives off. At Brae the fog starts to roll in, reducing the other vehicles to headlights. Suddenly there is a set of lights coming at him fast from the left. He brakes and swerves, his car screaming to a halt. Shaking with anger he gets out of his car and walks towards the other vehicle. There is a sense of movement behind him, a sharp pain - and then nothing.

In the old schoolhouse at Aith, the Procurator Fiscal Rhona Laing sips a cup of decaffeinated tea and savours the view towards Aith Marina, now clear of fog, loving the water having moved here for the sailing. She notices that the "Aith Veterans'" racing yoal is no longer on the bank. It is afloat and in danger of drifting out with the tide. She quickly changes from her work clothes and hurries down to the Marina, gets into her own dinghy and rows out to the yoal. She manages to tether the boat and glances into it, seeing the man laying across the seats, dried blood on his cheek, pale, dead. Her coolly efficient call goes to Sergeant Sandy Wilson. She instructs him to contact Inverness for a police team and to secure the site. Wilson frets over whether to involve his boss Jimmy Perez or not and decides to call in on the way to the Marina, by way of courtesy and to put him in the picture. However Jimmy makes it clear that he doesn't feel up to being involved in the investigation and somewhat sourly wishes Wilson good luck with the new woman police inspector from Inverness. Arriving at the Marina, Sandy recognises the dead body in the yoal as Jerry Markham, now working as a journalist down south. The rumour goes that he came back on the trail of a big story. But for Jerry the trail has come to a stop.

Ann Cleeves' "Shetland Quartet" - four novels featuring detective Jimmy Perez - has generated two successful radio dramas and 2013 has seen its first adaptation for TV with the UK broadcast of Shetland, based on RED BONES. DEAD WATER, the fifth novel, establishes a second quartet and opens with Jimmy on sick-leave and trying to come to turns with the shattering events at the end of the last novel. With a killing and the subsequent arrival of the Inverness police team, led by a young woman inspector, Jimmy is reluctantly drawn into the investigation. What was the big story the dead journalist was looking into? Did it involve the local energy industries - old oil versus the siren call of renewables? As old secrets and enmities are uncovered and with yet another death - it seems there could be several dangerous currents flowing through events on Shetland.

Award-winning writer Ann Cleeves paints the landscape and life on the islands with fluency. Her characters include a wide social mix of incomers, local-born, traditional and alternative lifestyles. I found it interesting to contrast Jimmy Perez with another of Ann Cleeves' detectives, Vera Stanhope. Vera seems to resolve mysteries through solitary almost obsessive logic whilst, in this novel, the dark and brooding Perez makes intuitive leaps and impulsive forays, a technique which makes for friction with the new inspector from Inverness. Although I remember the Jimmy Perez radio plays and enjoyed the recently broadcast TV drama, this is the first "Jimmy Perez" title that I have read and with this in mind, I wonder if one needs to read the Shetland books in sequence; more particularly to read the previous novel BLUE LIGHTNING before embarking on DEAD WATER. But despite not having done so, I still enjoyed DEAD WATER. It is an absorbing read and a reminder to those of us who haven't - that it's time to catch up with the previous books in the series.

Lynn Harvey, England
March 2013

Lynn blogs at
Little Grey Doll.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 24/03/2013 10:18