Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves: A review

 

Ann Cleeves' series set in the Shetland Islands is truly one of my favorite mystery reads. In Cold Earth, the original mystery is the identity of a woman found dead after a landslide that sends a house and part of a cemetery slipping down a hill into the North Sea. It soon becomes clear, however, that it was not the storm or the landslide that killed her. No, her death was caused by a human, not by Nature. She was strangled.

The landslide comes during a funeral. Jimmy Perez is present for the burial of his old friend, Magnus Tait, and he watches in horror as the flood of mud and peaty water smashes through a croft house in its path. The house was believed to be unoccupied but when he searches the wreckage he finds the body of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress.

There is no identification on the body and the only possible clue to her identity is a wooden box containing two pictures, one of two small children and one of an elderly couple. There is also a handwritten letter that begins: "My dearest Alis." Is the mystery woman Alis? Perez and his team must answer that question in order to begin to solve the mystery of her death.

This is the seventh book in the Shetland series and they just get better and better. One of the best things about the series for me is the setting of Shetland. The culture of the islands is unique and Ann Cleeves describes it so well that I always feel that I am there, even though it is likely that I will never actually have the opportunity to go there. Moreover, the recurring characters in the series feel like old friends. I'm well aware of all their foibles and their history and I feel quite comfortable in their presence.

The main character, detective Jimmy Perez, is still trying to come to terms with the death of his lover and he has responsibility for the care of her daughter who she had bequeathed to him. The tragedy of his lover's death and his present relationship with the young daughter add depth to Perez's character. Also, his working relationships with his colleagues, Sandy and Willow, allow us to understand more of just how the island's society operates. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read. 

Comments

  1. I love how Cleeves weaves the landscape into her stories. She always makes me feel as though I'm right there with her characters. I imagine that all the years she spent birding has a lot to do with that.

    I, too, would love to go to Shetland, although I think chances of that are slim indeed. I have spent weeks on the northwest coast of Scotland, about as close as I could get to Shetland. What a phenomenal place!

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    1. One of the strongest points of these books for me is her description of the landscape. She does have the ability to make us feel as though we are there.

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  2. This one sounds so good! Onto the TBR list it goes. :D

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  3. The setting really makes this one sound good. Who doesn't like a remote island story?

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    Replies
    1. Cleeves is always so good at describing the settings of her stories. It's like the settings themselves are one of the characters.

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