Ann Cleeves returns to her critically acclaimed Shetland Island series with this stunning mystery featuring Inspector Jimmy Perez, who readers will remember from Raven Black, White Nights, Red Bones, and Blue Lightning. When the body of a journalist is found, Detective Inspector Willow Reeves is drafted from outside to head up the investigation. Inspector Jimmy Perez has been out of the loop, but his local knowledge is needed in this case, and he decides to help Willow. The dead journalist had left the islands years before to pursue his writing career. In his wake, he left a scandal involving a young girl. When Willow and Jimmy dig deeper, they realize that the journalist was chasing a story that many Shetlanders didn't want to come to the surface. In Dead Water, a triumphant continuation to her Shetland series, Ann Cleeves cements her place as one of Britain's most successful crime writers.
About the Author
ANN CLEEVES is the multi-million copy bestselling author behind two hit television series—the BBC’s Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall, and ITV’s Vera, starring Academy Award Nominee Brenda Blethyn —both of which are watched and loved in the US.
Shetland is available in the US on Netflix, Amazon Video, Britbox and PBS, and Vera is available on Hulu, Amazon Video, BritBox and PBS.
The first Shetland novel, Raven Black, won the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel, and Ann was awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger in 2017. She lives in the UK.
Read an Excerpt
A Shetland Mystery
By Ann Cleeves
Minotaur BooksCopyright © 2013 Ann Cleeves
All rights reserved.
Jimmy Perez stopped for breath and looked out to sea. A still, calm day, the light filtered through high cloud so that the water was shiny grey, like metal. On the horizon a bank of fog. In the deep pockets of the long oilskin coat that had once belonged to his grandfather were pebbles the size of eggs. They were round and smooth, and so heavy that he could feel the weight of them pulling on his shoulders. He'd collected the rocks from the beach at Ravenswick, selecting them carefully: only the roundest, the ones that were white as bone. In the distance, a little way out from the shore, there was a stack of rock shaped like a rough cross, tilted on its side. The calm water hardly broke around it.
Perez started walking again, counting out the paces in his head. Most days since Fran's death he performed the same ritual: collecting the pebbles from the shore close to her house and bringing them here, to her favourite place in the islands. Part penance and part pilgrimage. Part mad obsession. He rubbed the pebbles with his thumb and found a strange comfort in the touch.
On the hill there were ewes with young lambs, still unsteady on their feet. This far north lambing came late and they didn't arrive until April. New life. The bank of fog was rolling closer, but in the distance, on the highest point of the headland, he could see the cairn he'd built with his collection of Ravenswick stone. A memorial to the woman whom he'd loved and whose death still weighed on his conscience, pulling him down.
As he walked he recalled the stages of their relationship, the seasons of their passion. This too was a ritual performed on every visit. He'd met her in winter, with snow on the ground and hungry ravens tumbling in a frozen sky. He'd made love to her in midsummer, when the cliffs were raucous with seabirds and there was a carpet of wildflowers in the meadow below her house. In early spring she'd proposed marriage to him. He stopped for a moment, dizzy with the memory of it, and the sky seemed to tip and wheel around his head, and he couldn't tell where the sea ended and the sky began. Her challenging smile. 'Well, Jimmy? What do you think?' And she'd died in the autumn, in a storm that battered his Fair Isle home, sending spindrift high into the air and cutting them off from the outside world.
I'm mad, he thought. I will never be sane again.
From the cairn he could see the sweep of the North Mainland. Fran had loved it because she said this summed up Shetland in one view, the bleakness and the beauty, the wealth that came from the sea and the hard, barren land. The past and the future. In the distance, in a fold in the land, the oil terminal at Sullom Voe, in this strange silver light looking almost magic, a lost city. Everywhere land and water, and land reflected in water. To the south the line of giant wind turbines, still now. Below him the settlement of Hvidahus, three toy houses and a pier, and almost hidden by trees the crofting museum at Vatnagarth where he'd left his car.
It was six months to the day since Fran had died. He thought he wouldn't come back here until Fran's daughter Cassie was old enough to understand. Or he felt up to bringing her. He hoped the cairn would still be there then.
He walked down the hill into the fog. It lay like a pool over the lower ground, swallowing him up, so that he felt as if he were drowning. The museum car park, which had been empty when he arrived, was full now and there was music coming from one of the barns, and the windows were lit – square moons penetrating the gloom. The music drew him towards them and he was reminded of the folk tales of his youth, the trowes who seduced mortals with their fiddle-playing and stole a century of their lives. And he must look like something from a story himself, he thought, with his long black hair and his unshaven face, the long black coat. He peered through a window and saw a group of elderly people dancing. He recognized the tune and for a moment was tempted in himself, to take the hand of one of the old women sitting against the wall and spin her round the room, making her feel young again.
But he turned away. The old Jimmy Perez might have done that, especially if Fran was with him. But he was a changed man.CHAPTER 2
Jerry Markham looked across at the voe that wound inland from the open sea. Behind him was the open hill, peat and heather, brown after a long winter. Ahead of him the oil terminal. Four tugs, big as trawlers, two alongside, one forward and one aft, nudged the Lord Rannoch backwards towards the jetty. The tankers were always moored to face the sea, ready for escape in case of incident. Beyond the still water he saw an industrial scene of oil tanks, office accommodation and the huge bulk of the power station that provided power for the terminal and fed into the Shetland grid. A flare burned off waste gas. The area was surrounded by a high fence topped by razor wire. Since 9/11, even in Shetland, more care had been taken to secure the place. At one time all that was needed to get into the terminal was a laminated pass. Now every contractor was vetted and put through a safety course, and every truck was inspected and badged. Even when the gates were opened, there was a further concrete barrier to block access.
Jerry took a photograph.
Overhead an Eastern Airways plane came in to land at Scatsta Airport. During the war the airstrip had been an RAF station. Now it carried more traffic than Sumburgh, but no scheduled flights landed here; no tourists or kids home from college would climb from the plane. These flights were all oil-related. Markham watched as a group of men climbed onto the runway. Fit men, they could have been members of a rugby team or an army platoon: there was the same sense of camaraderie. The male bonding thing that had somehow passed him by. Markham couldn't hear their voices from where he stood, but he could sense the banter. Soon helicopters would take them to start a new shift on the platforms or the rigs.
Once, more than 800 tankers a year had carried crude oil south from Sullom Voe; now just 200 arrived at the jetty, and the Lord Rannoch carried medium crude from Schiehallion, an Atlantic field to the west. The North Sea fields were almost empty. Markham knew the facts and figures. He'd done his research, but he was Shetland-born and -bred. He'd grown up with the benefits of the oil: the well-equipped schools and the sports centres, the music lessons and the smooth, wide roads. Oil was getting harder and more expensive to extract from under the seabed, but still the site looked busy; there was no sign today that the terminal was in decline. For a moment he wondered if Shetland would have been different – if he would have been different – and less spoiled, if the oil had never been discovered. And what the future would hold for the islands once the oil had all gone.
Markham shifted position so that he had a slightly different perspective and took another photograph. Beyond the perimeter fence a road was being built. Accommodation modules like steel cans were being set on concrete blocks. A new terminal was being constructed next to the old one, and a huge rectangular wall held the blocks of peat that had been dug from the hill to clear the site. As the oil was running out, gas had been discovered, and Shetland had welcomed the new energy source with enthusiasm. Gas meant jobs. Local trucks were already carrying rocks from Sullom quarry to form the foundations of the plant. Hotels, guest houses and B&Bs were packed with workers from the south. House prices were rising again. Gas meant money.
Markham walked down the hill, jumping over peat banks, to reach his car. He'd left it at the end of the track that led past the airstrip. There was construction here too: the metal ribs of a new control tower. The plane, having spilled its passengers, was already loading up with more. He was aware as he drove past that the men, queuing to climb the steps, were staring. There weren't many cars like his Alfa in Shetland. He sensed and enjoyed their surprise and their envy, and wondered what Annabel would make of that.
He took the road south along the voe towards Brae. Half a mile away from the terminal the only indication that oil came ashore here was a yellow buoy in the middle of the water. If there was a spill, a boom would be attached to the buoy to prevent oil contaminating the sensitive saltmarsh at the head of the narrow inlet. But already the tanks and the jetties, the harbour master's offices and the airport and the new gas terminal were hidden by a fold in the hill. Now there were only sheep and gulls, ravens and the sound of curlews.
At the end of Sullom Voe he came to the community of Brae and slowed slightly to join the main road. Brae showed more signs of the oil industry: a few streets of houses built by the council as homes for workers. Grey, utilitarian, hated by the tourists who came expecting picture-book pretty. Shetland didn't do pretty. It did wild and bleak and dramatic, but pretty would have been out of place.
Out of Brae he hit a bank of fog. It had been gloomy all day, no wind and that grey drizzle that seemed to seep through the skin to chill the bones, but suddenly he could hardly see to the bend in the road. Headlights came towards him very slowly and seemed to drift past through the mist on the other side of the road. He couldn't hear the oncoming vehicle's engine. There was a sense that nothing existed outside the bubble of the car. No sound. No sight. Then suddenly more headlights, this time coming from his left, very fast and directed almost straight towards him. He braked sharply and turned to avoid them. Even in the fog he'd been driving too fast, and he heard the screech of tyres on tarmac and felt the car spin out of control. But the fog still filtered out the impact of the noise. This was a dream skid. Or a nightmare. He sat shaking for a moment.
Then fury took over from shock. He tried to control it, to breathe deeply and stay calm, but failed. Some bastard had almost driven into him and could have killed him. Could have wrecked the car, which at the moment mattered more. The headlights of the vehicle that had run him off the road had been turned off, but he hadn't heard the maniac drive off. He got out of his vehicle and felt the aggression pulsing like a vein in his neck. He wanted to hit somebody. He hadn't felt like this for months and the anger was like a drug entering the system of an addict, providing a familiar comfort, the buzz of excitement. Since arriving in Shetland he'd been polite and understanding. He'd controlled his frustration. Now it had found a legitimate target and he let rip.
'What the shit were you playing at, you moron?'
He couldn't see the car, except as a block of darker shadow, because the fog was so thick. He walked towards it, intending to pull open the door and force the offending driver out. Behind him there was a movement, sensed rather than heard, and he turned round.
Another movement. Air. A whistling sound of air moving. A sharp pain. Then nothing.CHAPTER 3
Rhona Laing made tea. Earl Grey decaffeinated. The community shop in Aith had started stocking it specially for her. Her home had once been the Schoolhouse, solid and grey, and folk thought it was too big for her, a single woman. Folk thought all sorts of things about her, and occasionally she caught the tail-end of rumours that amused and irritated: that she flew to Edinburgh every six weeks to get her hair done, that she'd had a child out of wedlock and given him up for adoption, that she had a secret lover who sailed into Aith Marina after dark most nights and left again in the early morning. It was her policy neither to confirm nor deny the stories.
The house had been her project for her first six months after moving to Shetland and now it was finally arranged to her satisfaction. Furniture built to fit, so it looked like the interior of a grand ship. The captain's cabin. Everything with its place. The Procurator Fiscal's office in Lerwick was just as tidy. Clutter and mess made her physically ill.
She carried her tea to the living room and looked down the bank to the voe. There had been thick fog for most of the day, but it had lifted as she'd driven home from Lerwick and now the scene was washed with the clear light of spring. For as far as she could see, low green hills and water. Every evening after work there was the same ritual. The drive back from town, the tea, then a few minutes spent looking at the view. Even in the winter, when it had long been dark. A flat barge was making its way to the salmon cages further out towards the sea. The surface of the water was marked by mussel strings, the floats looking like jet beads on a thread. Everything as it should be. Then, closer to the marina, she saw that the yoal they would race at regattas during the forthcoming season was floating on the water. It should be hauled up onto the grassy bank, and there was no wind to have shifted it. They'd only brought it out from its winter storage the weekend before. She thought the local children, bored at the end of the Easter holidays, must have pushed it out, thinking it would be fun to cause mischief for the women of the place.
Rhona rowed with the Aith veteran women's team. Her only gesture towards becoming a part of her community. As Fiscal, she'd always thought she should set herself a little apart. It was hard in a place with such a small population to keep work and home separate, but she'd never felt the need for intimate friends. Yet she enjoyed being part of the vets' rowing team. The training nights followed by glasses of wine in one of the houses. The regattas when everyone turned out to cheer. She'd thought she'd be the fittest and most competitive in the group, but that hadn't turned out to be the case – a crofter from Bixter could beat her every time. Rhona liked the physical activity (she missed her Edinburgh gym sessions) and last year had felt stronger as the season progressed. So although she'd not long got in from work and was enjoying the tea, she felt responsible for the yoal drifting out on the tide. She changed out of her office clothes and went down to the marina.
The place was quiet. It was the time of evening meals, soap operas on the television and bathing children before bedtime. Wading birds were pecking at the seaweed on the beach. Her dinghy was tethered to her yacht at the mooring. The Marie-Louise was her pride and joy, big enough for speed and distance, but she could manage it single-handed without a problem. She pulled the dinghy in and rowed after the errant yoal, revelling even in this short time on the water at the end of the day. She'd moved to Shetland for the sailing. She was born to be on the water. An ex-lover had once told her that she had salt water, not blood, running through her veins.
She caught the yoal easily. She would loop a rope through the ring at its prow to drag it back to shore. She was thinking that she could make an evening of it. There would be enough light for an hour on the voe. No wind for sailing, but even when using the engine she never tired of the view. Shetland only made sense when it was seen from the sea. Then she glimpsed inside the open boat. Lying across the seats was a man. His hair was blond and his skin was white, so his dark eyes looked strangely as if he were wearing make-up. Rhona knew that he was no longer alive before seeing the gash in his head, the dried blood on his cheek; before realizing that this was no natural death.
Excerpted from Dead Water by Ann Cleeves. Copyright © 2013 Ann Cleeves. Excerpted by permission of Minotaur Books.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
this author keeps the reader guessing all the time. All the way to the end