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Review written by Sue Lord. Jimmy Perez is attending the funeral of his old friend Magnus Tait. Watching the coffin lowered into the grave he remembers the old man and Fran, the love of his life, also buried there. The Graveyard is on flat land at the bottom of the valley next to the sea.

Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves

It is winter on Shetland; to Perez it seems that it has been raining for months. Over grazing has loosened the earth.


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The land above the churchyard begins to slide, gaining momentum it sweeps across the main road carrying away a small croft. Gathering speed it rumbles towards the mourners who escape just it time.

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They watch as the landslide collects up the gravestones and carry them over the beach to the sea. Everyone thinks that the demolished the croft is unoccupied, but Perez finds the body of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress. It transpires that she was already dead before the landslide hit the house. Perez has to find out who she was, and how she died.

Ann Cleeves captures the sense of place with a light touch. The plot is clever. It meanders like a Shetland road at its own pace, with twists and turns, hills and valleys to climb, with an unexpected ending. The characterisation is excellent.

She wore a red silk dress, exotic, glamorous. Her hair and her eyes were black and Perez felt a strange atavistic connection. She could be Spanish, like his ancestors of centuries ago.

Book Discussion : Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves

In addition, Wilson finds two photographs: one of an old couple and another of two young kids. There was no signature at the bottom, just a row of kisses, and Perez wondered what that suggested. Such a fresh, inviting backdrop for a mystery series. According to Wikipedia, inhabitants have populated the area since the Mesolithic period, with earliest written reference dating back to the Romans.

My abysmal lack of familiarity with the region, beyond the ponies, might just be adding a tad bit to my enthusiasm of Ms. Alas, too poor to actually make the trip, I did the next best thing and began watching the TV series starring Douglas Henshall as Perez. Shetland Now Available on Netflix!

The quiet setting with the thoughtful lead detective reminded me of a similar favorite of mine … Robert B. Both have that morally strong main character who awkwardly balances complicated relationships with past losses that affect his current contacts. Well worth your time.