In the eighth, and final book, in Ann Cleeves’ bestselling Shetland series there are sufficient clues to satisfy those readers who pride themselves on uncovering the culprits before all is revealed.
Ann Cleeves' Wild Fire: The Shetland Series 8.
About 100 kilometres north of Scotland, the Shetland Islands are a popular tourist destination for cruise ships, not least because of the spectacular scenery. Of the 100 islands that comprise the Shetlands, fewer than 20 are inhabited by a total population of under 30,000 people. Such is the setting for Ann Cleeves' popular Shetland novels of which Wild Fire is the eighth and last.
Cleeves describes the lives of a number of families living in a small community where everyone knows nearly everyone else. The cast of characters includes local Shetlanders of all ages as well as 'incomers' who have yet to earn local approbation. Naturally, therefore, the English family who have bought and renovated an old house are treated with great suspicion. Gossip is rife and Cleeves captures this convincingly. The main players include an irascible doctor, a successful businesswoman, a depressed husband, a gifted autistic schoolboy, a frustrated and spiteful older woman, and a young nanny. It is unfortunate that they are somewhat overdrawn as though the reader might not understand a more finely nuanced characterisation.
When the young nanny is murdered, Jimmy Perez and his boss, Willow Reeves, are the detectives called in to find her killer. Featured in the seventh novel of the series, Cold Earth, Jimmy and Willow have an unresolved relationship. This makes it harder for them to work together, but they manage to overcome their personal problems and eventually discover who committed the murder, though not before more crimes are committed and some unpleasant events from the past surface to shed light on possible motivations.
The story is fast-paced and the atmosphere of the Shetlands, whether in pleasant summer weather or enveloped in disrupting fog, is told with affection for the place. There are sufficient clues and red herrings to satisfy those readers who pride themselves on uncovering the culprits before all is revealed and who relish the puzzle of a good mystery novel.
Cleeves is among the most successful crime writers of our time. In a recent British Radio Times poll, her detective series featuring Vera Stanhope came in sixth place and this series based on Shetland came in ninth. These very high ratings relate to the television series based on Cleeves's novels but are not irrelevant. That is because Wild Fire begs to be put on the screen, almost as if it was written as a treatment for a TV series. That may be an unfair or irrelevant assessment, but there are many instances where people say, 'Don't watch the movie – the book is so much better'. So should one refrain from reading a novel because the television series based on its characters possibly outshines it? That is something readers must decide for themselves.
3 ½ stars ★★★☆
Wild Fire: The Shetland Series 8
By Ann Cleeves
Format: Trade Paperback
Pub Date: 31/07/2018
Category: Fiction & related items / Thriller / suspense
Fiction & related items / Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Fiction & related items / Crime & mystery