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Monday 21 March 2022

‘A Shetland Winter Mystery’ by Marsali Taylor

Published by Headline Accent,
6 December 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-9206-3 (PB)

Cass Lynch is home for Christmas, on six weeks’ leave from her job as second officer on the training ship Sørlandet, and for the first time in many years she is based on dry land. Now that her partner DI Gavin Macrae is based in Shetland, they are living together in a cottage, and Cass’s beloved yacht Khalida is closed up for the winter.

Gavin expects his new job to consist mainly of admonishing lads for spraying graffiti, but he has reckoned without his trouble-magnet partner.   As ever, mystery dogs Cass’s footsteps. First, it’s the trowie footsteps outside the cottage: a trail of tiny prints which seem to disappear into nowhere. The trows are Shetland’s ‘little people’, like Irish leprechauns and Welsh tylwyth teg; the weeks before Christmas are their time, and footprints have appeared in several places in the islands. Then a schoolboy goes missing, and his friends remain determinedly close-mouthed.   

The plot thickens when two bully-boys appear at the cottage and disappear just as quickly when Cass’s name is revealed. And finally, almost inevitably it seems, there’s a body...

There’s always trouble when Cass is around, and this time it includes threats and bribery from a large pharmaceutical company, family conflict and missing boys, environmental protests, and not forgetting the trowie footprints. It’s all set against a background of Cass’s own unease about living in a house rather than on the sea, and as ever the Shetland landscape and culture is almost an additional character.

Shetland in winter has its own bleak beauty, and Marsali Taylor brings it as vividly to life as any of the seascapes in her earlier work. Likewise, the cast of characters, some familiar, some new. There’s Cass’s own family: the redoubtable Maman, her well-meaning father, made unpopular by the controversial windfarm project in which he is involved, and not forgetting the cats. Then there’s Inga’s family: Cass’s oldest friend, her husband Charlie and their three children including the engaging four-year-old Peerie Charlie, whom Cass has known since birth and often babysits when she’s home. And the Callahans, Leonard the Viking-like wood sculptor, and his blended family of wife, ex-wife and three grown-up children, all portrayed with personalities that surely continue living outside the confines of the story.

Between them Cass, Gavin and Sergeant Freya Petersen get to the bottom of all the mysteries, but not without a modicum of danger and a lot of friction. If you’ve never met Cass and her merry crew before, this tenth book in the series is as good a beginning as any to draw you into her world – and I guarantee it will send you in search of her earlier adventures.

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 in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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