Two deaths within a fortnight disrupt a Shetland Island archeological dig.
First Ronald Clouston, mistaking old Mima for a rabbit in the foggy Shetland night, accidentally shoots her. Then Hattie James, the emotionally fragile Ph.D. candidate in charge of the 15th-century excavation on Whalsay, slits her veins and lies down to die in one of the site trenches. Mima’s grandson Sandy Wilson, who disappointed his family by disdaining crofting and fishing in favor of police work, is ready to write off the deaths as a terrible accident and a suicide. But Inspector Jimmy Perez (White Nights, 2008, etc.), a man who delves into past relationships as quietly but deeply as any psychiatrist, suspects foul play. Given a week to prove his hunches, he uncovers a toxic one-night stand between Hattie and an archeology professor; a World War II liaison between Mima and a Norwegian sailor who was later branded a traitor; the greed and jealousy coloring the relationship between Sandy and Ronald’s mums; and the possibility that the bones found at the dig might belong not to a Hanseatic merchant but to someone considerably more contemporary. A denouement at Mima’s house draws out the truth while spawning new gossip, innuendo and myth that islanders will pass down for generations.
Cleeves is expert at depicting hardscrabble island life, parental expectations and disappointments and emotionally charged silences. Thoughtful readers should give Perez a try.