RogerBW's Blog

Red Bones, Ann Cleeves 25 October 2019

2009 mystery; third in Cleeves' Shetland Island series. At an archaeological site on Whalsay, the old woman who lives nearby is shot one foggy night – accidentally, everyone assumes. Then one of the archaeologists is found with her wrists slit. DI Jimmy Perez investigates.

This is more Sandy Wilson's book than it is a third volume about Perez. In the previous two Sandy's been the junior cop who's lazy and gets things wrong; here he grows up a bit, not jumping straight to the right answer the way he thinks a detective should, but tracing through reasoning and inconsistencies to come up with workable theories.

As a result of this shift in focus, some elements I enjoyed from the previous books are removed or downplayed; the Inverness policeman who's been on the previous murder enquiries to show a contrast of methods and provide some friction is gone, and even Perez' girlfriend Fran Hunter (central to the first book and important in the second) is largely absent, though not from his thoughts. That's a gap in the narrative which isn't quite filled by stories of past wrongdoing and family secrets. (And I at least could have done with a crib as to who was related how to whom; I thought there were some inconsistencies.)

On the other hand, the layers of deception are effectively done, with such beautiful baroque complexity that it's almost a shame to tease them apart and come down to the relatively simple answers. Nasty people are portrayed as nasty without necessarily being killers, which is something that mystery writers sometimes fail at when they like their characters too much; no risk of that here.

It is unfortunate that there's a major error of procedure; gur zbfg phefbel sberafvp rknzvangvba bs Unggvr jbhyq unir erirnyrq crevzbegrz oehvfvat ba gur onpx bs gur urnq, juvpu jbhyq unir tbg rirelbar guvaxvat nobhg zheqre sebz gur fgneg, abg whfg ybar pehfnqre Crerm.

Still, while I didn't enjoy it as much as I did the first two books, I'll certainly carry on with the series.

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Previous in series: White Nights | Series: Shetland Island

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