Death on a Longship (The Shetland Sailing Mysteries) Paperback – 12 Mar 2014
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'... a well-written, enjoyable story with a proper murder-mystery plot harkening back to the classic style. It's good to see that there's another book in the series in the pipeline and I'm already looking forward to it. Highly recommended.' * Puzzle Doctor, Classic Mysteries *
About the Author
Marsali grew up near Edinburgh, Scotland. Her summer family holidays were spent in a remote cottage in the West Highlands, the region where her detective Gavin Macrae lives. Like her sailing heroine, Cass, she has always been used to boats, and used her `gap year' earnings to buy her first sailing dinghy, Lady Blue. She studied English at Dundee University, did a year of teacher training and took up her first post, teaching English and French to secondary children in Aith, Shetland. Gradually her role expanded to doing drama too, and both primary and secondary pupils have won prizes performing her plays at the local Drama Festival. Some of these plays were in Shetlandic, the local dialect. Marsali teaches dinghy sailing at her local club, and is a keen single-handed sailor in her Offshore 8 m yacht, Karima S - the double of Cass's Khalida. A qualified STGA green badge tourist guide for Shetland, she now spends a good deal of her summer sharing her home with visitors from overseas. She is particularly interested in women's history, and has published Women's Suffrage in Shetland, two years' worth of original research. She followed this with The Story of Busta House, the romantic tale of the house which is the setting for part of Death on a Longship. Marsali also writes for the monthly magazine Shetland Life - a mixture of travel writing, interviews, investigative journalism and historical research.
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These books have the feel of being written by an expert on sailing. Personally, I know zip about sailing - one afternoon in a rowing boat with motor, when I fell into Loch Fyne (sigh) - but I do like books that sound as if the writer knows all sorts of entrancing wee details about something. The 'thriller' part of the plot can be a bit less 'WOW' than some...but the background detail is entrancing and the characters are really alive....and annoying sometimes. The parts that made this book and the others in the series so interesting for me were the differences between what I recognise as a Scot....and what I don't. Some of the dialect and older beliefs are....alien. Presumably that'll be the Scandinavian influence? A fascinating book and a fascinating series so far. And there are more in the series! Yaaay!!
(It was beautifully silent, real country silence with a hundred sounds in it: the sea shushing only fifty yards away, the trickle of the burn by the house, and a lark up on the hill….
….The tide had pushed its load of seaweed and coffee foam up the beach and retreated, leaving it lying like wave shadows on the pale shingle.)
The dialogue is appropriate to, and expressive of, each character. Cass herself uses similes from sailing (eg: he jumped as if I’d run a marlinspike into him) and lapses into Shetlan when with native islanders. As the story is told in the first person it is Cass we get to know best. I found her believable, interesting and likeable. I was happy to spend time with her, inhabiting her world.
Several Amazon reviewers suggest that the glossary of Scots and Shetlan words should be at the beginning of the book. The table of contents in the Kindle version (which is what I read) gives no indication that there is such a glossary so I think this is a fair point, even though it didn’t bother me.
For me, the plot was the weakest part but I found it sufficiently clever not to be obvious even though a few clues did jump off the page: I didn’t work out who the murderer was.
This is not a taut, action-packed thriller but a good murder mystery which kept me engrossed and turning the pages to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written story and look forward to reading the next in the series.