Jimmy Perez is attending the funeral of his old friend Magnus Tait. Watching the coffin lowered into the grave he remembers the old man and Fran, the love of his life, also buried there. The Graveyard is on flat land at the bottom of the valley next to the sea.
It is winter on Shetland; to Perez it seems that it has been raining for months. Over grazing has loosened the earth. The land above the churchyard begins to slide, gaining momentum it sweeps across the main road carrying away a small croft. Gathering speed it rumbles towards the mourners who escape just it time. They watch as the landslide collects up the gravestones and carry them over the beach to the sea.
Everyone thinks that the demolished the croft is unoccupied, but Perez finds the body of a dark-haired woman wearing a red silk dress.
It transpires that she was already dead before the landslide hit the house. Perez has to find out who she was, and how she died.
Ann Cleeves captures the sense of place with a light touch. The plot is clever. It meanders like a Shetland road at its own pace, with twists and turns, hills and valleys to climb, with an unexpected ending. The characterisation is excellent. All the characters are believable.
The Shetland books are tightly written, we feel the insularity of the island community. Of course Jimmy Perez task knows most of the residents he has to question. This is a community where relationships are complicated.
Cold Earth is the seventh book in the Shetland series, which is also a television series. I would like to say that the books are far better than the T.V. programs. But that would not be fair, since they are two very different genres. Do read the books they are superb. In Cold Earth, Ann Cleeves has written a good, mystery story and a satisfying read.
This review was originally uploaded for the Hardback Edition.