EXCERPT: Later they went into the house for a break. Mima made sandwiches for them and then came out herself to see what was happening. When Evelyn went back to work on the practice trench, the older woman stood watching. Mima was wearing black crimplene trousers and wellingtons that flapped around her knees. She’d thrown a threadbare grey fleece over her shoulders. Hattie thought she look ed like a hooded crow, standing there watching her daughter-in-law at work. A hooded crow ready to snatch at a fragment of food.
‘Well, Evelyn, what do you look like?’ Mima said. ‘On your hands and knees like some sort of beast. In this light you could be one of Joseph’s pigs, grubbing around in the soil there. You be careful or he’ll be slitting your throat and eating you as bacon.’ She laughed so loud that she coughed and spluttered.
Evelyn said nothing. She knelt up and glared. Hattie felt sorry for her. She’d never know Mima to be so cruel. Hattie jumped into the trench beside Evelyn. The bone was protruding from the earth now, largely uncovered. Hattie took her own trowel from her jeans pocket. With intense concentration she stripped away more of the soil, then took a brush. The shape of the bone became more defined: there was a pleasing curve, a sculptured hollow.
‘Pars orbitalis,’ she said. Shock and excitement made her forget her earlier resolve not to show off, to keep her language simple so that Evelyn would understand.
Evelyn looked at her.
‘The frontal orbit,’ Hattie said. ‘This is part of a human skull.’
‘Oh, no,’ Mima said. Hattie looked up at her and saw that her face was white. ‘That cannot be right. No, no, that cannot be.’
ABOUT THIS BOOK: An island shrouded in mist and a community with secrets buried in the past . . .
When a young archaeologist studying on a site at Whalsay discovers a set of human remains, the island settlers are intrigued. Is it an ancient find – or a more contemporary mystery?
Then an elderly woman is shot in a tragic accident in the middle of the night. Shetland detective Jimmy Perez is called in by her grandson – his own colleague, Sandy Wilson.
The sparse landscape and the emptiness of the sea have bred a fierce and secretive people. Mima Wilson was a recluse. She had her land, her pride and her family. As Jimmy looks to the islanders for answers, he finds instead two feuding families whose envy, greed and bitterness have lasted generations.
Surrounded by people he doesn’t know and in unfamiliar territory, Jimmy finds himself out of his depth. Then there’s another death and, as the spring weather shrouds the island in claustrophobic mists, Jimmy must dig up old secrets to stop a new killer from striking again . . .
MY THOUGHTS: In her own beautiful style, Cleeves takes a handful of unrelated threads: an archeology dig, the birth of a baby, the discovery of a skull, family feuds, and weaves them into a tapestry of intrigue. She is a master at the slow boiler, the novel that doesn’t really appear to have much action but simmers slowly until it boils over at the climax.
I think one of the things I most love about her work, is that I never have any idea as to who the ‘bad guy’ might be. We get to know the characters intimately, their hopes, dreams and desires, their disappointments and frustrations, their family history. We can picture the setting down to the last mound of dirt, surging wave. We can feel the atmosphere she creates seep into our bones.
This is not a thrilling book, but it is a good mysterious ‘whodunnit’.
THE AUTHOR: Ann is the author of the books behind ITV’s VERA, and the BBC’s SHETLAND, which was aired in December 2012. Ann’s DI Vera Stanhope series of books is set in Northumberland and features the well loved detective along with her partner Joe Ashworth. Ann’s Shetland series bring us DI Jimmy Perez, investigating in the mysterious, dark, and beautiful Shetland Islands…
DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Red Bones by Ann Cleeves, narrated by Kenny Blyth, published by Isis Publishing Co, via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own opinions.
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