Alright. My. Bad. This is the very first Ann Cleeves book I have read (I think), despite being a huge fan. How? Because of the TV series’ based on her novels. You see, I watch and love the TV series’ – Shetland and Vera – and made the not-so-silly-really assumption that because I know who the killer is, I know the story. Uh ha… no, I don’t. While the TV series’ are sensational (Brenda Blethyn as Vera is a revelation, pet, and while Douglas Henshall isn’t dark like the Perez of Cleeve’s novel – something I learned with this one – he is sublime), the books are even better – and that is saying a great deal.
I adored this one, Thin Air, a story I wasn’t familiar with (hence I started on book 6, as I thought I knew the others). It commences with a group of friends returning to the isle of Unst in the Shetlands for a ‘hamefarin’ or “homecoming” – this being for the wedding of local boy, Lowrie, to English Caroline. When one of the wedding party, Eleanor, disappears and is later found dead, suspicion points to her friends. After all, what reason would any locals have to kill a woman who was not only friend of the bride, but also fascinated by the local legend of a ghost child who drowned over 100 years ago?
As Jimmy, Willow and Shane investigate, the more deception and lies they uncover as well as secret lives. Or so it seems. But who or what lies behind the ghost story and why are they so keen to protect it they would kill?
Beautifully crafted, while the plot is tight and the characterisation rich and believable, it’s the emotional depth that Cleeves gives to not only the fresh cast of suspects and locals, but to Perez and his peers. Not only that, but the island and the customs of the Shetlanders are brought to life in the most wonderful way. You really feel as if you’re there, watching the eternal gloaming of summer, feeling the spray of the sea and the cries of the birds. You are also beside Perez and co as they piece together the mystery behind this murder and those working hard to keep it hidden.
I feel so smitten with this series, I am going back to the beginning because, as usual, the TV show can only reveal so much. I can’t wait to reimagine each investigation – only now it will be through Cleeve’s masterful eyes.