Two mysterious boats come to the marina at Brae. David and Madge in the magnificent but unnamed motorboat annoy Cass and arouse her suspicions with all their questions; Peter and Sandra in the yacht want to investgate the archaeology of the Trowie Mound, and ancient neolithic earthwork. But Peter and Sandra go missing and then, one night, their yacht sails off into the night and disappears and Cass hears the haunting cry of the Selkie out at sea. Somehow all this is linked to the theft of artworks from houses which are being exported via Shetland to the Faroes and further afield. And who is making the pornographic films at the deserted house?
A brilliant murder mystery with a completely logical solution and a chase at the end. It is the realism of the characters that really makes this series stand out from others. When Cass is shut up in a dark space you can really feel her fear of the dark. The police share with her what they can but the reader can share with Cass the thrill of working out whodunnit without any artificial separation between forensic evidence and psychology. But best of all is the thorough grounding in the Shetlands. The scenery is beautifully explained and the people are real. Major characters have mixed motives and flaws. Kids are kids and grown ups are kids grown up. The pain of bereavement is honestly felt. As the book nears its climax we go to an agricultural show and it is just like any other agricultural show and the things that happen there are trivial and real and powerful and true.
- A great first line: "'I know how you got that scar', the boy said, eyes travelling along the ragged indentation that ran across my cheek." (p 1)
- "It was ill luck to go round against the sun in Shetland." (p 159)
- "A blackbird shrilled his alarm call from the twisted sycamore at the back of the house." (p 160)
- "I let out a relieved breath that I hadn't known I'd been holding." (p 161)
- "I think you are half-mongoose, like the old English stories by the grandfather f the man who makes the cakes." (p 193)
- "A west Highlands-style burn tumbled down the hill, wooded by spiky-branched electricity pylons." (p 201)
- "The yellow boots fidgeted like a pony who's been asked to stand still." (p 214)
Some of the chapters are introduced by a Shetland proverb of which my favourites were (which I have translated into English):
- A silk Monday makes a canvas week.
- The stone that lies not in your path breaks not your toes. (Mind your own business)
- It's not for the rabbit's good to be over friendly with weasels
- What's foreborne should always be forsworn
- He's the main string of the fiddle
- Angry folk are always worse than angry cattle
- Seldom comes a dove from a crow's nest
A wonderful book. July 2017; 327 pages
Update December: Just read The Body in the Bracken: Cass Lynch #5