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Sunday 2 December 2018

‘Death on a Shetland Isle’ by Marsali Taylor

Published by Allison & Busby,
22 November 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-23884-3 (HB)

Cass Lynch is off to sea again, on her beloved training ship Sørlandet, this time as second officer. A mystery raises its head almost immediately – in fact, something of a shock for Cass herself. The new third officer is the spitting image of a man whose death she was responsible for, more than twenty years ago.  More than that: Cass is convinced it is that man, and what scant evidence she can gather seems to point that way. He has either lost all memory of what happened between them, or is up to no good, and she has a hard time deciding which is the case.

Meanwhile, something is brewing among the new batch of trainees. There's one who seems completely out of place on a ship, another who is too charming for his own – or anyone else's – good. Between mysterious phone calls and shoreside encounters, snatches of conversation with definite undertones, and an 'accidental' fall down a precipitous flight of stone steps during a sightseeing expedition, Cass is soon sure something is going on which will end in tears.

It does, of course; there are bodies and missing persons, even a kidnapping, though that's not quite what you might think. Fortunately, by the time Cass's suspicions start to develop into something more, her policeman boyfriend Gavin Macrae has joined the crew, so she has someone to share it all with. But even there a hint of tension creeps in, over the situation with the man from her past.

And that's only the plot! As ever, Marsali Taylor brings her extensive sailing knowledge to the table; everyday life aboard the Sørlandet  is vividly portrayed. She also breathes life into her beloved Shetland landscape as the ship visits not only Lerwick on the mainland, as Shetlanders call it, but also Mousa and Fetlar, two of the outlying islands which have distinctive characters of their own.

And on the subject of characters, the new crop are as well drawn as the familiar players. Alain, the mysterious third officer, has the same Gallic charm Cass fell for all those years ago, though she now finds she is immune to it. Laura, the trainee at the centre of the other mystery, has hidden depths. Her brother Oliver is charming but shallow. The new captain of the Sørlandet is a stickler for protocol and detail.

Cass keeps threatening to settle down with her Gavin, but somehow, I can't see her abandoning the sea. And while mystery insists on dogging her footsteps, I'm sure Marsali Taylor will continue to follow her around. I certainly hope so.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
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.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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