IN THE lead-up to her new novel’s release, Ann Cleeves had long teased readers that one of the world’s most beloved homicide detectives, Jimmy Perez, may not survive his upcoming Shetland murder case.
A playful Cleeves resurrected that threat to her character’s wellbeing when speaking at the Bendigo Writers Festival last month.
Wild Fire is the story of that fateful investigation.
The final instalment in the second of two quartets of Shetland crime books, it draws to a close a set of four with “elements” as their theme.
The mystery begins in May, three months after Detective Inspector Perez and his on-off lover and police superior Willow Reeves last worked together in Cold Earth.
It takes place largely in fictitious Deltaness, a hamlet in the north-western corner of Shetland’s main island, where the body of young nanny Emma Shearer has been found hanging in an English-incomer family’s shed.
Gossip suggests that Shearer – who cared for the four children of a local doctor and a part-time-publicist – and the newly arrived father, architect Daniel Fleming, were more than merely friends.
In a departure from tradition for Cleeves, part of the action this time extends beyond Shetland’s shores to neighbouring Orkney as Perez researches the Orcadian victim’s teenage years.
As the team begins to track the killer, Fleming finds himself struggling to hold together his relationship with his celebrity knitwear-designer wife Helena – who by coincidence was acquainted many years earlier with Perez’s now-deceased fiancée, Fran.
Unscrambling the evidence trail is complicated in itself but being forced to work side by side with Reeves again adds an entirely new level of difficulty to the situation for Perez, a man once described as “emotionally incontinent” by his former wife.
Will this in fact be the last hurrah for the moody policeman with the tragic past?