Thursday, January 13, 2022

Cold Earth - Ann Cleeves


Cold
Earth, published in 2016, is the seventh book in the eight-book Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. Prior to reading this one, my only experience with the series and its characters came via the very successful television series based on the books. Fans of both will already know that there are some significant differences between the books and the television shows, but it is worth mentioning a couple of them. 


First, the physical appearance of the main character, Jimmy Perez, is not at all the same. In the television series, people meeting Jimmy for the first time are a little startled by his surname because he bears no resemblance to their stereotypical idea of what a “Perez” should look like. In the shows, Jimmy sometimes explains the origin of the name in his bloodline. That is something he does not have to do much in the books because he is described in those as having dark hair and eyes — people meeting him for the first time are likely to be more surprised by his Shetland/Scottish accent than by his physical appearance.


Second, and must more significantly, Jimmy’s stepdaughter Cassie is about a decade younger in the books than she is in the television series. Even as near the end of the series as Cold Earth is, Jimmy is still having to look for babysitters for the little girl when he is unexpectedly called out on a case. At a similar stage of the television series, Cassie is already living on the mainland and only returns to the Shetlands for periodic visits to her two fathers. This age difference places the focus on two very different aspects of Jimmy’s personality in the books and shows. 


The opening of Cold Earth is one of my favorite parts of the novel: a small crowd has gathered in a hilltop cemetery to say goodbye to an old friend of Jimmy’s. It’s cold, windy, and rainy already, and everyone is plenty miserable even before a mudslide triggered by days of torrential rain comes roaring toward them. The slide is bad enough that all the cemetery’s headstones are smashed and carried further downhill, and the crowd can do nothing but watch helplessly as a nearby small house is totally destroyed by the mud that slams into it. The only good news is that no one lives in the house because its elderly owner has recently died.


So what’s to be made of the total stranger, a dark-haired woman dressed in a beautiful red silk dress, that Jimmy discovers in the wreckage? 


No one knows her name, where she’s from, or even how long she may have been living in the now-destroyed house. Soon enough, though, Jimmy discovers a little wooden box amid the rubble that contains pictures of two children and an unsigned letter addressed to someone called Alis. Beginning with what’s in the box, and with a lot of help from the mainland Scottish police, Jimmy starts pulling on one thread after the other until it all starts to make sense. But what he is about to learn has the power to destroy families, ruin countless reputations, and get others killed, including someone close to him. 


Bottom Line: Ann Cleeves has a well deserved reputation as one of the finest crime writers working today, having already enjoyed huge success with both her Shetland series and her Vera Stanhope series. Her new Two Rivers series featuring Detective Matthew Venn has also been well received and is off to an excellent start. Cold Earth (I wish I could reveal the origin of that title without having to use a spoiler to do it) is another example of her brilliance, and I am looking forward to reading more of the Jimmy Perez story very soon.


Ann Cleeves


12 comments:

  1. She is such a pleasure to read, isn't she?

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    1. Absolutely, Cathy. I wish her earliest books were easier to get hold of.

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  2. Ooh...I love the sound of this one! Could I get away with reading this seventh book first?

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    1. I think so, Lark. It might even be somewhat of an advantage. Cleeves does allude to a lot of stuff that must have happened in book 6 in the series, but you really don't need the details of that stuff here. It is used more to explain Jimmy's present state of mind.

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  3. I wasn't familiar with this title but, I was pretty confident your bottom line would be positive. Love her writing Sam.

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    1. Diane, she's definitely become a new favorite of mine. I'm happy to have so many of her books to catch up on.

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  4. I just finished the third one in this series. This one sounds good but I do prefer to read them in order so I'll get to it at some point.

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    1. Normally, I feel the same about reading them in order as much as possible, Dorothy. This one became available to me by chance, and I couldn't resist it.

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  5. It is just so great when the book and show or movie are equally good. Rare, but this is one example it seems to me.

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    1. It doesn't happen all that often, does it, Nan? The only thing that still kind of nags at me is that difference in age of Jimmy's daughter between the show and the book. I think I prefer that character as older than as a child in the books.

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  6. I've read her Vera Stanhope series but not the Shetland ones. I enjoy reading British writers, as I think they write well, in genera.

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    1. Definitely, some of my favorite crime fiction writers are British and European, no doubt about it. I have found, too, some really interesting crime fiction out of Japan, and that kind of surprised me.

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