Digging a grave for a favorite horse, an obstetrician on one of the Shetland Islands uncovers a shockingly mutilated corpse, a discovery that will take her into the depths of local legend and scandal, putting both her and her rather shaky marriage in mortal peril.
The corpse in the opening of Bolton’s debut thriller has been fairly well preserved in the local peat moss, but the woman is not one of those National Geographic mummies from the ice age. Stubborn young obstetric surgeon Tora Hamilton has the medical skills to see that the dead woman’s toenails have a bit of polish unavailable to Pleistocene gals. It takes no medical degree, however, to notice that the heart has been ripped out of the body. Then the postmortem reveals that the victim had delivered a child within a couple of weeks of her death. Oh, and someone has carved runic figures into her back. Tora’s handsome husband Duncan, a Shetland native whose new business brought the couple to the isolated chain of islands between Scotland and Norway, is out of town, and Tora, a bit dizzied by the grizzly findings, is further dizzied by the animal magnetism of Kenn Gifford, her recently returned but hitherto unseen superior at the local hospital. Gifford is one of a number of brawny Shetlanders who are physical throwbacks to the Vikings, who once held the islands, but he has considerably more polish. Fighting off the Nordic charisma, Tora, whose childless marriage is in the doldrums, turns her energies to clearing up the murder. Assisted by attractive lesbian detective sergeant Dana Tulloch, she stumbles on a pattern of mysterious deaths, and even more mysterious births, and learns that her husband and his chilly parents, as well as nearly everyone in authority on the island, is in it up to their necks.
Lots of rather swoony thrills and escapes, complete with those cute Shetland ponies.