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Sunday 1 February 2015

‘A Handful of Ash’ by Marsali Taylor

Published by Accent Press Ltd,
27 Jun. 2014.
After running away from home to sea when she was sixteen, Cass  Lynch has now returned to Shetland, reconciled with her parents, and is now living on her boat Khalida moored in Scalloway, while she studies at college for qualifications so that she can be an officer on tall ships. She has taken a part-time gardening job to support herself while studying.

On an evening walk, Cass finds the body of a young girl.  There are no obvious signs of the cause of death, but her hands are smeared with peat ash, which Cass finds strange.   Reporting the death to the police brings Gavin back into her life - every cloud has a silver lining!

With Halloween approaching, rumours of witches in Scalloway seemingly spring from nowhere.  When Cass hears that she is being called a witch, she initially dismisses it, but the rumours seem to have taken hold. Then she then runs into three young goths who threaten her and her beloved Cat. And when a college friend says that his great granny is in a state as last night she saw Auld Clootie (the Devil), Cass decides to visit her.

A second death found in the manner of the method used in the seventeen century to deal with witches in Shetland’s ancient capital, has Cass off to the library to do some investigation. 

I enjoyed this book enormously, although I have to admit that the sailing aspect went over my head, but the mystery itself held me enthralled.  The suspects are numerous, and kept me guessing.  When the murderer is revealed it was satisfying to see that the clues were all there for the amateur sleuth, provided you are a student of human nature.  It is so often weakness, and pride that bring about one’s downfall.

There are some marvellous characters, I particularly love Cass’s mother.  And the return of the charismatic Anders added an extra spice to Cass’s personal life. I look forward avidly to the next in the series. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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