There are few settings more suited to mystery and murder than the remote Shetland Islands. They lie north of Scotland, not far from the tip of Norway, and just east of Iceland. Only 16 of the 100 islands are inhabited, the winters are long and dark, and a ferry from the islands to the closest mainland city, Aberdeen, takes a full 14 hours. They are strikingly beautiful and incredibly rich in culture but sparsely populated and bone-chilling.
Author Ann Cleeves traveled there 40 years ago to be an assistant cook in a bird observatory. She couldn't cook and knew nothing about birds but fell in love with the people and terrain. Many years later, she used it as the setting for her enigmatic Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez to raise a family, suffer incredible loss, and of course, solve cases.
The Shetland book series has been popular in the UK and US for many years, and Netflix just started airing all three seasons of the television program. The first eight episodes are based on the Cleeves novels, and the 3rd season tortured British fans with aching suspense as they waited to see who was responsible for several harrowing and brutal murders over the course of six installments.
Shetland is best watched while hiding from the world on a rainy Sunday. The acting is nuanced enough that you think you can solve the mystery by reading the expressions of Jimmy Perez (played by a quietly seductive Douglas Henshall) and his neighbors. Cleeves and the Shetland screenwriters draw Perez loosely, letting viewers learn about him slowly over the course of the series rather than through blunt exposition. And the muddy and murky islands provide the right amount of tension to the expertly drawn plots.
So check out Shetland on Netflix now! And after you're finished, pick up a copy of the latest Sheltand book, Cold Earth, which releases in the States tomorrow.