“Wild Fire” By Ann Cleeves, is part of the Shetland series and the inspiration for TV’s crime drama of the same name. It is not necessary to have read the previous books, and new readers can jump right in without any problem. Each character is briefly introduced, and current scenarios easily reveal the previous books and relationships. Throughout the series, we have watched Jimmy Perez grow and change. He is now struggling with very big changes, as continuing characters should. We know the major characters well, and the story is about their personal and professional interaction as they solve this crime. As always, Shetland is the backdrop.
The opening foreshadows events to come as is Emma Shearer, aged twenty-four, employed as a childminder by a local family, sits with her friend Magnie watching the kids on the beach below build a bonfire. A young boy watches with his eyes shut and his hands over his ears to block out the sound.
The phone call.
“What’s happened there? Something terrible. There’s been another death. Another hanging. Emma Shearer. Our nanny.”
Jimmy Perez has a case, but he has to arrange childcare just like any other single parent. Nothing is “close” or “convenient. Assisting Perez is Willow Reeves, his senior officer, his boss. They had worked together previously, and very recently, they had a personal, intimate connection. Their relationship is complex and multifaceted, and while they make every effort to keep it secret, perhaps it is just too big to remain a secret forever.
Few people know much about Emma Shearer’s personal life, or at least nothing they admit, not even the Moncrieff family for whom she had worked for seven years. Outsiders are not readily welcomed in the almost closed society on the island. Perez searches for answers because it is impossible to have secrets when there are only twenty-three thousand people in the islands, and most of them have some connection with each other.
Vivid descriptions remind readers of the unique geographic setting.
“The land here was very low, separated from the shore by dunes and irregular fields where sheep grazed; there was a series of freshwater lochans, with iris and marsh marigolds at the fringes, everywhere the call of lapwings and oystercatchers. A breeze blew the flowers and nothing seemed fixed. Everything was moving: feather, reed, water.”
Conversation drives the story along, and the relationships make this a compelling novel. The characters are complex, well developed, and multi-faceted. Even the “minor” players are well defined with captivating personalities and intriguing pasts.
I loved “Wild Fire.” I received a copy from Ann Cleeves, Minotaur Books, and NetGalley, and I highly recommend the entire series. Although the “official” description states that this is the last in the series, the end also hints that we might see more in the future, perhaps in a new series. I certainly hope so.