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Friday 28 June 2024

‘Death At A Shetland Festival’ by Marsali Taylor

Published by Headline Accent,
9 May 2024.
ISBN: 978-1-0354-0065-2 (PB)

Marsali Taylor’s Shetland has become another of the world’s beautiful but dangerous places, and it comes to life in a big way in the latest outing for her shrewd sailing sleuth Cass Lynch. One of the most prominent events of the year is about to get under way when the book begins: the Shetland Folk Festival, a huge and joyous jamboree which welcomes performers of traditional music from all over the world at a series of sell-out concerts at various locations on the islands.   

Cass and her policeman partner Gavin Macrae have tickets for the first concert – and since murder seems to dog Cass’s footsteps, it comes as no surprise when the body of one of the artistes is found in a pool of blood at the back of the venue. The artiste is Fintan Foyle, a famous Irish Canadian singer who has come to the Shetland event as part of a world tour.

The local police are on the spot to do the initial groundwork, but because of the victim’s fame, a major investigation team flies in from the mainland, and Gavin finds himself well and truly sidelined. Fortunately, the incomers involve local sergeant Freya Peterson in a minor role; she is as annoyed as Gavin to be pushed out, and keeps him and Cass informed. 

Meanwhile, Cass has another mystery to solve. A diary dating back to the 1980s has turned up in a box of books donated to a parish sale, and she sets about identifying the owner so it can be returned. She resists the temptation to read it, but Marsali Taylor takes pity on the reader and offers enough taster chunks to reveal how this story strand links to the murder.

Naturally, the major investigation team go off down blind alleys, and it’s the Shetland contingent who solve both the murder and the mystery of the diary. Along the way there are plenty of twists, turns and crossed wires, with Taylor’s trademark cast of interesting characters, including a host of different folk musicians, and a group of women with a common history of jobs at the workers’ camp when the Sullom Voe oil terminal was under construction forty years ago. She brings to life the boisterous final night of the folk festival and explores the subtle undercurrents and emotions of the relationships between the artistes and the locals. And as well as preparing for one more tour of duty on board the longship Sørlandet before settling down to domestic life with Gavin, Cass gets to go sailing in her yacht Khalida, another trademark of this engaging series.

Not for the first time, Marsali Taylor has ticked all the boxes: familiar characters to enjoy, and new ones to warm to (or not, as the case may be); a generous helping of Shetland landscape and everyday life; a nicely convoluted mystery; and as a bonus, a slice of recent island history to explore. Long may murder continue to follow Cass Lynch around her beloved Shetland!  
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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