On 2nd December over 30 people came to a drop-in launch of Marsali Taylor’s 10th Cass Lynch adventure. The event was the first launch to be held in the newly re-opened and beautifully refurbished Shetland Library. Guests enjoyed mulled apple juice and a special celebration cake made by Lynn and Ingrid of the Cake Fridge (yes, the one that appeared in the last series of Shetland!), and Marsali was kept busy chatting to readers and signing books.’10 books is a special milestone, and I wanted to celebrate all the exciting things that have happened in the ten years since I had Cass’s first adventure, Death on a Longship.
Marsali’s detective series is set in contemporary Shetland, and stars a liveaboard sailor, Cass Lynch, who keeps getting involved in crime. Each novel is a stand-alone, and the books can be read in any order, but readers have enjoyed the slow-growing love story between Cass and Gavin Macrae, the Inverness DI sent up to solve the cases. Other Shetland characters who drop in and out of the books are Cass’s best friend and local activist, Inga, former whaling skipper Magnie, who taught Cass to sail as a child, and Cass’s parents: her Irish businessman father and her flamboyant French opera-singer mother. The books are classic puzzle ‘whodunnits’, but also bring in contemporary issues like crime using the internet, people trafficking and, in the new book, A Shetland Winter Mystery, the windfarm being built in central mainland. ‘The windfarm was a theme in the first book,’ Marsali said, ‘and I hadn’t meant to write about it again, but it’s just been so horrible watching the destruction in the hills, and seeing the bulldozers coming closer to where we live.’ In this book, Inga’s three children take centre-stage: the oldest, Vaila, joins her mother in objecting to the windfarm, and she and her friends come up with a very Shetland way of protesting but it all goes wrong when one of them goes missing.
‘During lockdown I couldn’t go into the school, or go to see my London grandchildren, so I really enjoyed writing about young people, and I hope my young adult readers will feel this book reflects their world.'
However readers around the world agree that the real star of the books is Shetland itself. Each book conjures up the colours and feel of a different time of year, and brings readers into the Shetland community, where everyone knows everyone, people are quick to rally round neighbours in need, doors can still be left unlocked and children have freedom to run around. Shetland readers will also recognise the descriptions of last winter’s beautiful snowy days woven into this Christmas-set story.
The books reached a new audience when they were taken up by larger publishers, first Allison and Busby and now Headline. Readers from as far apart as Alice Springs and Vancouver tuned into the on-line launch of Death from a Shetland Cliff. In this last year, 17,000 of Marsali’s books were borrowed in UK libraries, and around that number sold worldwide.
‘I think people all over the world love knowing that there is still somewhere like Shetland, where people can still live as a community. Readers get involved in the place, and want to come and see Cass’s world - I’ve met some lovely folk that way.'
‘The last ten years have been amazing for me. I’ve been involved in plays in the Scottish crime festival, Bloody Scotland, headed to Oxford for St Hilda’s Crime Festival, and to Reykjavik for Iceland Noir. I was in Toronto for Bouchercon, the big American festival, and was thrilled to be invited to Vancouver for Left Coast Crime. I’ve done a couple of tall ship voyages, as “research” and had so many wonderful experiences… in fact, I’m having so much fun as a writer that sometimes I feel a bit guilty, thinking I should be doing something more useful with my time. On the other hand, when the words aren’t wanting to flow, and it all becomes hard work, I remember I’m retired and don’t have to do this! Then I get a message, like the one I had last Christmas, from a lady with cancer, a fellow-sailor who was really struggling with her treatment. She said she found my books, and reading them got her through it, imagining she was at sea with Cass, instead of lying in pain in a hospital bed. Now she’s sending me pictures of herself sailing again. It’s letters like that which make me feel I’m doing something worthwhile.'
Shetland Sailing Mysteries
Death on a
Long Ship (2012
The Trowie Mound Murders (2014)
A Handful of Ash (2014
The Body in the Bracken (2015)
Ghosts of the Vikings (2016)
Death in Shetland Waters (2017)
Death on A Shetland Isle (2018)
Death From A Shetland Cliff (2020)
The Shetland Sea Murders (2021)
A Shetland Winter Mystery (2021)