First Sentence: Emma sat on the shingle bank and watched the kids on the beach below build a bonfire.
DI Jimmy Perez is approached by a Helena, a woman whose family are new residents on the island. She has been receiving anonymous notes with images from the game "hangman," and asks for Jimmy's help. When Emma, the nanny to the children of the Island's Doctor Moncrieff, is found hanged in Helena's barn, where the previous owner hanged himself, by her autistic son Christopher, Jimmy calls together his team, including Willow Reeves, the Chief Inspector of the Serious Crime Squad and Jimmy's occasional lover. Complex relationships hide dark secrets.
Cleeves brings one into a community so small that everyone new is subject to speculation. There is a good reminder of how interconnected are people in such communities—"There are only twenty-three thousand people in the islands, and most have some connection with each other."
There is a shift in Jimmy and Willow's relationship. Willow is wonderfully done. She is very much an example of who many women have become; self-supporting, self-reliant, strong, not opposed to having a partner, but willing and able to get on alone if needs must while still feeling the hurt and uncertainty. Christopher and his autism is well handled. It feels just right, without being overdone.
What an interesting observation regarding the popularity and gentrification of what had been small communities—"Willow wondered if it caused resentment: these confident, educated incoming, buying up the nice houses, subtly changing the character of the place. …Wouldn't it feel like an invasion?" How also true is it that one never really knows what goes on within a family—"…the whole happy-family image seems to have been a bit of a sham."
Cleeves doesn't rely on twists, but when she does include one, it's very effective. She also does a very good job of increasing the level of mystery and suspense, keeping the killer's identity from the reader until the last possible moment.
"Wild Fire" is yet another excellent read from Ann Cleeves. Almost as intriguing is the reference at the end to the young women on the ferry. Those who know her history can't help but suspect the character is Ann herself in an homage to a place so special to her. Most intriguing of all the is the subtle Easter egg at the end. We shall just have to wait to see.
WILD FIRE (PolProc-Jimmy Perez-Shetland Islands, Scotland-Contemp) – ExCleeves, Ann – 8th in series
Minotaur Books – Sept 2018