25 November 2018
In August, I purchased Death on a Longship, the first book in this series, for all of 99p. However, due to a chaotic schedule, it wound up lingering in my Kindle unread until October half term when I finally allowed myself some time to relax and read for fun, not for work. After devouring the first book, I purchased the second, practically inhaling it and successive books in the series, happy to see that the series continued. Then I came to a sudden standstill. Book seven, Death on a Shetland Isle, wasn't yet published! I would have to wait a couple of weeks to see how Cass and Gavin's relationship was developing.
Yes, I started reading the first book because it featured a strong, independent female protagonist in what appeared to be a rather unique setting in the crime genre, but I've wound up becoming hooked due not only to Taylor's excellent plotting (she has managed to thwart me when I think I've solved the crime early on, so major kudos to her); her resplendent descriptions of her settings, including the accurate details regarding ships and sailing; and Cass's overall realistic character development. Although the crime plots are intricate and convincing, and the scenery makes me feel that I've been to these sites (although I've only been as far north in Scotland as Aberdeen, more's the pity), the human element has drawn out the hidden romantic in me. Whilst the more critical part of me is glad that Taylor is developing Cass and Gavin’s personal relationship slowly, which is natural considering their characterisations, especially Cass’s, another part of me is dying to know where it will go next and how it will happen.
In this instalment, Cass Lynch is now second mate on her beloved Sorlandet. With their team of new trainees, they are sailing from Norway to Shetland, where off-duty DI Gavin Macrae is using his holiday leave to meet up with her and serve as a trainee himself on their departure back to Norway. Of course, it couldn’t be Death on a Shetland Isle without an actual death, and Cass and Gavin are soon back in form to solve the crime. However, this time around, there’s a further complication when the ship’s new third mate turns out to be Alain, the man whose apparent death in the Atlantic she’d obsessed over, blaming herself for years. How does she come to grips with his sudden reappearance under a different name? Can she trust him? Is he who and what he claims to be? Could he be responsible for someone else’s death? How does she balance Alain being alive with her already seemingly delicate balancing act between her career and the sea with Gavin and the land?
Although the murder plots and the setting certainly aren’t easy to write, it’s how well Taylor draws her characters with words and makes them real people that confirms that Taylor has spent years teaching English. Years of compelling students to write in a believable manner themselves can have only helped hone her own style. It’s clear that she knows how to use language to birth her ideas in print and convince her readers of their legitimacy – that they are real. Her inclusion of Shetland dialect is authentic and wholly natural. After years of living far away from water, I’ve spent the past few years residing along the Solent, walking to my town’s quay and looking at all of the boats of myriad sizes coming and going with envy, and trying to find the means to get on any boat, even a ferry to the Isle of Wight, simply to feel that “sea air”. Although it’s only a microcosm of Cass’s need to be at sea, I can understand her yearning, thanks to Taylor’s well-composed prose. And also thanks to Taylor, although I’ve wanted to visit both the Orkneys and Shetland Isles for years to see their Viking ruins, I now yearn to make that hope true one day.