Wild Fire is the much-anticipated final entry in Ann Cleeves's beloved Shetland series, which is now a hit television show starring Douglas Henshall.
"Nothing short of riveting."Louise Penny on Blue Lightning
"Gripping from start to finish."Booklist
"Jimmy Perez is a fine creation."Peter Robinson
The betrayal of those closest burns most of all . . .
Hoping for a fresh start, an English family moves to the remote Shetland islands, eager to give their autistic son a better life.
But when a young nanny's body is found hanging in the barn beside their home, rumors of her affair with the husband spread like wildfire. As suspicion and resentment of the family blazes in the community, Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez is called in to investigate. He knows it will mean his boss, Willow Reeves, returning to run the investigation, and confronting their complex relationship.
With families fracturing and long-hidden lies emerging, Jimmy faces the most disturbing case of his career.
About the Author
ANN CLEEVES is the multi-million copy bestselling author behind two hit television seriesthe 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
Emma sat on the shingle bank and watched the kids on the beach below build a bonfire. They'd dragged pieces of driftwood into a pile; it was something to do to relieve their boredom. Nothing much happened in Deltaness. It was too far from Lerwick for an easy night out, and the buses stopped long before the bars closed. The night was clear and still and the light drained slowly away. In another month it would be midsummer. Emma was there because she was bored too. When she was a child she'd longed for boredom, for quiet, normal days free from tension. School and homework, and meals with the family that didn't end in anger, shouting or worse. Now, she thought, she'd inherited a need for excitement, a longing to fill her days with action and challenge, to provoke a response from the people in her life. A need to make things happen.
She stared out towards the horizon, where the sea and the sky had blurred into one, and wondered why was she still here in Deltaness then, working as nanny? A voice in her head told her that she was still in Shetland because she was scared of the world away from the islands. Here she was safe, in a tight community where she knew her place. If she hadn't been so scared, she'd have stuck with Daniel Fleming, run away south with him, become an artist or a model or a designer. Emma closed her ears to the voice. She didn't like to think of herself as scared. Life here wasn't so bad. It had its own compensations. She took a bottle out of her bag. This wasn't her wonderful new bag that stood on her bed, reminding her of those compensations, but the one she'd made herself out of a scrap of leftover fabric. She took a swig of vodka and passed the bottle to the man beside her.
Magnie Riddell handed it back and slid his arm around her back. Soon he would try to stick his tongue in her mouth. That made Emma feel a little bit sick. She liked men, but on her own terms, and sometimes she thought sex was seriously overrated. Magnie was kind, and as different from her father as it was possible to be, but she still found it hard to be physically close to him.
The fire was lit now. She could feel the heat from the flames even from here, and sparks spiralled into the sky. Below them the kids were passing round cans of lager and cider. They were singing some chant she couldn't recognize, something about sport, or a verse stolen from the Up Helly Aa fire festival. Then she heard a sound behind her of pebbles shifting and rattling, and a small child appeared on the bank above them. He stared into the fire, apparently mesmerized. She recognized him at once. This was Christopher, Daniel Fleming's strange boy.
The group below caught sight of him and stared back. They began to laugh and shout. Magnie pulled away his arm and turned towards her. Obviously he expected Emma to intervene, to take care of the child. But she was off-duty and she was bored. She watched the scene play out below her and she smiled.CHAPTER 2
Magnie Riddell was feeling old. He shouldn't be here with these kids; his mother would get to hear of it, because gossip spread through Deltaness even more quickly than it had when he was a bairn. Then, there might have been a chance of getting away with the occasional piece of mischief. Now even his mother was on Facebook, and it would just take one photo of him sitting next to Emma on the beach, his face lit by the flames and a bottle in her hand, for her to begin the old lecture. About how Magnie was all she had, now his father had left them for that foreign tart in Lerwick; about how he'd already caused her family disgrace: No one has ever been in trouble with the police before. I couldn't show my face in the shop for a month. You need to grow up, Magnie. Settle down with a nice local girl and make me a grandmother.
Magnie turned to Emma, who sat, prim and neat as his mother's Siamese cat, although she'd drunk as much as he had. That was what made her different from the local lasses who yelled and swore as much as the boys. She never lost control. She and Magnie were on the shingle bank, leaning back on their elbows, a little way from the fire and looking down on it. That was Emma too, always a little apart.
'Should we get back?' He thought perhaps she would allow him into the bedsit she had in the doctor's big house. She'd let him in once before and they'd lain on the narrow bed, and she'd let him touch her and kiss her, and he'd been wild with desire for her. Later, he'd slipped down the back stairs and out into the night without anyone seeing him. Scared and frustrated and excited, all at the same time. He'd hoped that might be the start of something, that it would make him her boyfriend and not just her friend. But the thing about Emma was that you could never be sure of anything. Even when they were kissing, when he'd unbuttoned her blouse and felt her skin against his, he'd felt that she was distant. An outsider looking in on what they were doing. Not exactly judging his performance, but not really engaged. He still didn't know quite where he stood with her and, for some reason that he couldn't work out, he was too frightened to ask her. Sometimes he wanted to lash out at her, to force Emma to take him seriously.
'I can't,' she said. 'Martha and Charlie are here and I need to keep an eye on them and walk them back.' Her voice was calm; there was something about her slow Orcadian voice that turned him on, drove him crazy. Just at that moment he would have done anything to possess her.
'I see. Of course.' Because what else could he say? She'd worked as a nanny for the doctor's family for years and though the two oldest were teenagers, she still felt responsible for them, in a way that he considered admirable. Even if it was frustrating tonight. Emma was more responsible, he thought, than the doctor and his wife, who never seemed to know or to care what their four children were up to. Without Emma, they would be allowed to run wild.
He looked down at the group by the fire to search for the Moncrieff kids. The only light came from the flames and so at first it was hard to make them out. He saw Martha first. She was sixteen, dark-haired. Since she'd started at the Anderson High, he'd never seen her wearing anything other than black. She was sitting cross-legged on the sand, brooding. The Deltaness gossip had her down as weird, attention-seeking. His mother tutted whenever she spoke of her: That girl will come to no good. And why those piercings and the haircut that looks as if someone's been at it with a scythe? She'd be attractive enough, if she made something of herself. He wondered, slightly drunk now, why his mother's words always seemed to appear in his head when he was least expecting them. He wished he could get rid of them, of her.
Charlie was fifteen, a year younger than his sister, blond, athletic. Magnie couldn't imagine him brooding about anything. Now he had his arm around a friend and they were singing. Maybe a football chant. Nothing musical, at least. From where he sat, Magnie couldn't hear anything like a tune. Just a beat. Charlie was waving a can of strong lager in the air. Soon he'd be sick. Magnie recognized the signs. He'd started drinking when he was a youngster too.
Behind Emma and Magnie, the shingle shifted. Magnie heard the clacking of smaller pebbles and felt them stinging his bare arms. He turned round. He hoped it wasn't one of the community elders, demanding that they keep the noise down or that they put out the fire. Then his mother would certainly get to hear he'd been on the beach with Emma. Recently, Magnie hadn't been entirely truthful when his mother quizzed him about the nanny. What business was it of hers, after all?
But a boy stood there. A young boy. He was dressed in a white T-shirt and white shorts, so it looked as if he was in his underwear, that he'd sleepwalked out of a dream. Magnie recognized him. His mother had pointed him out when he'd walked with her to the shop one morning: 'That's the daft child that lives in Dennis Gear's old place. They say he set fire to the school and he'll set fire to us all one day.' Magnie hadn't said anything. He knew his mother had had a soft spot for Dennis Gear – there'd been rumours about him and her having a fling at one time – and she hated the fact that the house had been changed so much. And maybe there was a touch of guilt about the way the old man died.
Now he felt sorry for the child, who looked so confused. The chanting around the fire, which had started as something to do with mocking a rival sports team, changed, became nastier. He made out the word and couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. 'Retard, retard, retard.' Magnie looked at Emma. She worked with children. Surely she would do something, take the boy into her arms and comfort him. They had to get him back to his family. But Emma made no move. She was still observing the scene below her. Magnie thought perhaps she was checking on Charlie and Martha. She wasn't looking at the boy standing above them. Magnie stood up and yelled at the group to stop their taunting, but his words were swallowed up by the noise. The chant changed. Now they were calling: 'Hangman, hangman, hangman.'
The boy had his eyes shut, his hands over his ears to block out the sound and the sight. Magnie couldn't believe that folk could be so cruel. He knew they weren't all cruel people. It was the drink and the fact that they were anonymous, part of the gang, changed by the flickering light into one monstrous, shouting whole.
Magnie scrambled up the bank to the child and picked him up in his arms. The boy didn't struggle. He felt very light, like a bird. There was no flesh on him. At the other side of the bank, out of sight of the fire and the teenagers, he set the boy on his feet. The chanting had stopped, as if the hidden kids were suddenly ashamed of what they'd done. Magnie took the child's hand. 'It's Christopher, isn't it? Come on then, Christopher, your mother and father will wonder where you are. Let's get you home to them.'
It was only when he turned back that he saw the shadow. A shape that he recognized, staring after him.CHAPTER 3
They stood in the playground, waiting for the kids to be let out for the day. The biggest proportion were mothers, but there were two fathers, three grandmothers and the young woman who worked as a nanny for the doctor's family. Most afternoons they gathered into small friendship groups and the exchanges were desultory, light-hearted. After nine months, Helena Fleming knew what to expect. There was a little harmless chat, anecdotes about other children's antics and achievements. She never felt quite part of the group and seldom spoke of her own children, but was prepared to be a willing audience.
Today, though, there seemed to be more cohesion, more purpose to the conversation, and she hesitated for a moment before entering. The gate creaked when Helena pushed it open and the group turned towards her. She knew they'd been talking about her, waiting for her arrival. Suddenly they morphed in her head into something from a horror film, became more like a pack of hunting dogs than the neighbours she'd thought she knew rather well. They were greedy for gossip and for a moment she had a picture of them tearing her apart to get it, their heads thrust forward, slavering. She wanted to run, surprised at how frightened she felt. She was a strong, independent woman, successful in her own right, and she shouldn't be feeling like this: numb, mindless, shaking. Shock and a residual pride kept her there, facing them. And really, she told herself, what could they do to her? They would be reluctant to make a scene. On the surface, at least, Shetlanders were a polite bunch. She turned her back and stooped, pretending to tie a shoelace, so she wouldn't have to look at them.
At that moment, the first class was released into the playground. Helena's children were older, but the waiting carers scattered to collect their offspring and immediately they became less threatening. They filled their arms with school bags and coats. Because this afternoon no coats were needed. It was May and warm for Shetland. The moment of tension had passed, at least for another day, and Helena relaxed, told herself that her reaction – the image of the hunting dogs – had been ridiculous. She should have faced the group, approached them and made conversation. How pathetic she'd been! How cowardly!
Ellie ran out soon after, elbows and knees flailing, socks around her ankles, chalk or paint on her forehead and down the front of her jumper. Talking. Sometimes Helena thought the girl had been born talking. Demanding attention, at least. Helena was used to listening with half her brain, nodding occasionally. It came to her, with a sudden dreadful moment of guilt, that she'd employed exactly the same tactics with her mother, when she was in the final stages of Alzheimer's. Helena bent towards her daughter and tried to focus, but she'd missed the beginning of Ellie's story and what she was saying now made no sense. Besides, Ellie couldn't stand still for more than a moment and the girl was already bouncing away.
Christopher was the last to emerge, accompanied by the support worker. Christopher always came out last, always accompanied. Helena thought it would do him good to mix with the others, because how could he learn the rules of interaction if he was never given the chance? She still hadn't plucked up the courage to question the issue, though. She could understand why the school wanted to play safe, but she hated the way he was made to feel different. He was eleven, tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed. Beautiful. The support worker always insisted on feeding back any issues of the day. In London, the school had been too busy for that sort of service. There were too many children with problems. Then Helena would have been grateful to hear how Christopher had managed in class. She'd longed for information, for her child to be given the attention she felt was his due. Now the daily ritual depressed her. She didn't want to know that Christopher had sworn at one child or bitten another. She was exhausted by the pity and the understanding. She almost preferred the playground parents' hunger for information about her strange fire-setting child and her melancholic husband.
'Well, we've had quite a nice day.' The worker was a Shetlander, always cheery, even when passing on the most embarrassing news. 'Haven't we, Christopher?' She had at least learned that he disliked intensely being called Chris.
Christopher looked at his mother and rolled his eyes. Helena thought it was this arrogance that provoked much of the antagonism directed towards him. He was bright – at least he had a fabulous memory, and the logic to solve maths problems – and because he thought he was the centre of the universe, sometimes he treated the adults around him, including his mother, as domestic servants.
'A bit of a temper tantrum at lunchtime, but nothing we couldn't handle.' Becky, the support worker, smiled. 'No messing about with matches today. See you in the morning, Christopher.'
He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Sandals. No jumper and no socks. His preferred outfit even in midwinter. He didn't seem to feel the cold, but hated the sense of fabric next to his skin, even natural fibres like cotton or wool. He never wore pyjamas and wandered round the house without any clothes at all, if he could get away with it. The school had got used to his scanty clothing now, but in the early days there'd been a daily phone call from the head asking why the boy had come in without a coat. 'We like them to get some fresh air, even when it's chilly.' Helena had tried to explain and then had sent Christopher to school with a coat and a jumper in a bag, muttering under her breath: And if you can get him to wear them, let me know your secret. Hoping, of course, that they wouldn't manage it, and she would be proved right. She had been proved right and the phone calls had stopped.
Christopher stood and waited while the exchange between Becky and his mother was taking place. He didn't fidget, like Ellie. There was a twitch occasionally, or he'd bite his nails or pick at his skin until it bled and formed a scab. This conversation between home and school was a routine that had to be gone through, and Christopher understood routine. By the time the meeting was over, the playground was empty. Helena shouted to Ellie, who was hanging by her legs from the climbing frame, to come down so they could go home.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Wild Fire"
Copyright © 2018 Ann Cleeves.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tidy ending to a good series
Ann Cleeves, for those who don't know, has written two mystery series; both have been made into British TV shows and are available for streaming. One series features Vera Stanhope and is set in England; the other features Jimmy Perez and takes place in Shetland. I am very sad to say that Wild Fire brings the Shetland series of eight novels to a close. I will miss each and every regular in the books. The novels do not need to be read in order but I would recommend that you do so for maximum enjoyment. In this last case, Jimmy, Willow and Sandy try to solve two murders; one, a nanny/mother's helper and the other a "busybody" of the town. The reader gets to know two families well; each has children and has, consciously or not, made decisions around their parenting. These choices very much influence the course of events. Of course, Jimmy is a father too as is Duncan, another recurring character. How do they make their decisions about their caring for Cassie? Magnie, too, has a mother who was a particular kind of parent. Reading this novel, one realizes that there is subtext on the importance of "good enough" parenting and what can happen when children do not get what they need. As always, the author writes with a keen sense of place. The reader can feel the flames of the fire, the fog, the sea and the town. Some loose ends are tied up in this last book. While I wish these fictional friends well, I hope that perhaps Ann Cleeves will change her mind and keep writing about them. Highly recommended. Thanks to NetGalley, Minotaur and to Ann Cleeves.
Mysterious, precise, and atmospheric! In this latest novel by Cleeves, Wild Fire, we head back to Deltaness where DI Jimmy Perez finds himself immersed in the evidence collection and investigation into the murder of a local nanny whose childhood was marred by hardship and tragedy and whose recent past was full of unusual and strained relationships. The prose is intricate and deft. The characters are flawed, complex and intriguing. And the plot is a compelling, well crafted, police procedural full of suspects, clues, deduction, jealousy, obsession, manipulation, swirling emotions, secrets, familial drama, and murder. Wild Fire is the eighth and final novel in the Shetland Series, and even though it’s a little bittersweet to say goodbye to the characters we’ve come to know and love over these last eight novels, it is nevertheless a lovely way to solve one last case with the usual gang and to finally discover whether DI Perez and Chief Inspector Willow will finally get their happy-ever-after ending.
This is my first Ann Cleeves novel and I seem to have come in on the tail end as Wild Fire is the eighth and final novel in Cleeves’ Shetland series featuring DI Jimmy Perez. Wild Fire completes the second of Ann’s Shetland Quartets, The Four Elements following the original Four Seasons Quartet. The spin-off TV crime drama “Shetland” has now been signed up for season 5. I did wonder if I would find the characters difficult to connect with coming into the story at the end of the series but this book can easily be read as a standalone. There were occasional references of past events however nothing that prevented me from grasping the storyline. Wild Fire was an enjoyable, easy read featuring a compelling mystery which kept my focus throughout. I found I became swept up in the lives of the people of Deltaness. Helena, Daniel and their two children hoping to escape their busy London lives have moved to the quiet town of Deltaness located in the Shetland Islands. Malicious gossip and anonymous notes leave Helena wondering if they will ever be accepted in the community or will forever be the newcomers. When a young woman is found murdered in a barn on the newcomers’ land Perez’s first impression is this is to do with the family not being accepted but when a born and raised local is found murdered he must rethink his ideas and try to find out how these two people were linked. In true murder mystery style Cleeves gives out just enough information to have the reader believing anyone could have and had cause to murder the victims. The characters are well drawn from the newcomers to the island, that feel like they don’t quite fit in, to the bitter gossiper who feels the need to dissect everyone’s actions and spread malicious gossip. I actually thought I had the murderer pegged until my main suspect turned up as the next victim. To finish off the series Cleeves gives Perez’s life a major upheaval which has him contemplating where he wants his future to go. Many readers will be sad to see the end of DI Jimmy Perez and the Shetland series but I am happy to say I still have seven more books in the series to read and I’m eagerly looking forward to them. If you enjoy old-style murder mysteries this series is for you. * I received a copy from the publisher and chose to place a review.