Wild Fire: New Excerpt

Read an exclusive excerpt from Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of the eighth and final Shetland Islandy Mystery!

Wild Fire

Ann Cleeves

Shetland Island Mysteries

September 4, 2018

Wild Fire is the much-anticipated eighth and final entry in Ann Cleeves’s beloved Shetland Island series.

When the Flemings―designer Helena and architect Daniel―move into a remote community in the north of Shetland, they think it’s a fresh start for themselves and their children.

But their arrival triggers resentment, and Helena begins to receive small drawings of a gallows and a hanged man. Gossip spreads like wildfire.

A story of dysfunctional families and fractured relationships, Inspector Jimmy Perez’s eighth case will intrigue series fans and Shetland Island newcomers alike.

Chapter One

Emma sat on the shingle bank and watched the kids on the beach below build a bonfire. They’d dragged pieces of driftwood into a pile; it was something to do to relieve their boredom. Nothing much happened in Deltaness. It was too far from Lerwick for an easy night out, and the buses stopped long before the bars closed. The night was clear and still and the light drained slowly away. In another month it would be midsummer. Emma was there because she was bored too. When she was a child she’d longed for boredom, for quiet, normal days free from tension. School and homework, and meals with the family that didn’t end in anger, shouting or worse. Now, she thought, she’d inherited a need for excitement, a longing to fill her days with action and challenge, to provoke a response from the people in her life. A need to make things happen.

She stared out towards the horizon, where the sea and the sky had blurred into one, and wondered why was she still here in Deltaness then, working as nanny? A voice in her head told her that she was still in Shetland because she was scared of the world away from the islands. Here she was safe, in a tight community where she knew her place. If she hadn’t been so scared, she’d have stuck with Daniel Fleming, run away south with him, become an artist or a model or a designer. Emma closed her ears to the voice. She didn’t like to think of herself as scared. Life here wasn’t so bad. It had its own compensations. She took a bottle out of her bag. This wasn’t her wonderful new bag that stood on her bed, reminding her of those compensations, but the one she’d made herself out of a scrap of leftover fabric. She took a swig of vodka and passed the bottle to the man beside her.

Magnie Riddell handed it back and slid his arm around her back. Soon he would try to stick his tongue in her mouth. That made Emma feel a little bit sick. She liked men, but on her own terms, and sometimes she thought sex was seriously overrated. Magnie was kind, and as different from her father as it was possible to be, but she still found it hard to be physically close to him.

The fire was lit now. She could feel the heat from the flames even from here, and sparks spiralled into the sky. Below them the kids were passing round cans of lager and cider. They were singing some chant she couldn’t recognize, something about sport, or a verse stolen from the Up Helly Aa fire festival. Then she heard a sound behind her of pebbles shifting and rattling, and a small child appeared on the bank above them. He stared into the fire, apparently mesmerized. She recognized him at once. This was Christopher, Daniel Fleming’s strange boy.

The group below caught sight of him and stared back. They began to laugh and shout. Magnie pulled away his arm and turned towards her. Obviously he expected Emma to intervene, to take care of the child. But she was off-duty and she was bored. She watched the scene play out below her and she smiled.

Chapter Two

Magnie Riddell was feeling old. He shouldn’t be here with these kids; his mother would get to hear of it, because gossip spread through Deltaness even more quickly than it had when he was a bairn. Then, there might have been a chance of getting away with the occasional piece of mischief. Now even his mother was on Facebook, and it would just take one photo of him sitting next to Emma on the beach, his face lit by the flames and a bottle in her hand, for her to begin the old lecture. About how Magnie was all she had, now his father had left them for that foreign tart in Lerwick; about how he’d already caused her family disgrace: No one has ever been in trouble with the police before. I couldn’t show my face in the shop for a month. You need to grow up, Magnie. Settle down with a nice local girl and make me a grandmother.

Magnie turned to Emma, who sat, prim and neat as his mother’s Siamese cat, although she’d drunk as much as he had. That was what made her different from the local lasses who yelled and swore as much as the boys. She never lost control. She and Magnie were on the shingle bank, leaning back on their elbows, a little way from the fire and looking down on it. That was Emma too, always a little apart.

‘Should we get back?’ He thought perhaps she would allow him into the bedsit she had in the doctor’s big house. She’d let him in once before and they’d lain on the narrow bed, and she’d let him touch her and kiss her, and he’d been wild with desire for her. Later, he’d slipped down the back stairs and out into the night without anyone seeing him. Scared and frustrated and excited, all at the same time. He’d hoped that might be the start of something, that it would make him her boyfriend and not just her friend. But the thing about Emma was that you could never be sure of anything. Even when they were kissing, when he’d unbuttoned her blouse and felt her skin against his, he’d felt that she was distant. An outsider looking in on what they were doing. Not exactly judging his performance, but not really engaged. He still didn’t know quite where he stood with her and, for some reason that he couldn’t work out, he was too frightened to ask her. Sometimes he wanted to lash out at her, to force Emma to take him seriously.

‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘Martha and Charlie are here and I need to keep an eye on them and walk them back.’ Her voice was calm; there was something about her slow Orcadian voice that turned him on, drove him crazy. Just at that moment he would have done anything to possess her.

‘I see. Of course.’ Because what else could he say? She’d worked as a nanny for the doctor’s family for years and though the two oldest were teenagers, she still felt responsible for them, in a way that he considered admirable. Even if it was frustrating tonight. Emma was more responsible, he thought, than the doctor and his wife, who never seemed to know or to care what their four children were up to. Without Emma, they would be allowed to run wild.

He looked down at the group by the fire to search for the Moncrieff kids. The only light came from the flames and so at first it was hard to make them out. He saw Martha first. She was sixteen, dark-haired. Since she’d started at the Anderson High, he’d never seen her wearing anything other than black. She was sitting cross-legged on the sand, brooding. The Deltaness gossip had her down as weird, attention-seeking. His mother tutted whenever she spoke of her: That girl will come to no good. And why those piercings and the haircut that looks as if someone’s been at it with a scythe? She’d be attractive enough, if she made something of herself. He wondered, slightly drunk now, why his mother’s words always seemed to appear in his head when he was least expecting them. He wished he could get rid of them, of her.

Charlie was fifteen, a year younger than his sister, blond, athletic. Magnie couldn’t imagine him brooding about anything. Now he had his arm around a friend and they were singing. Maybe a football chant. Nothing musical, at least. From where he sat, Magnie couldn’t hear anything like a tune. Just a beat. Charlie was waving a can of strong lager in the air. Soon he’d be sick. Magnie recognized the signs. He’d started drinking when he was a youngster too.

Behind Emma and Magnie, the shingle shifted. Magnie heard the clacking of smaller pebbles and felt them stinging his bare arms. He turned round. He hoped it wasn’t one of the community elders, demanding that they keep the noise down or that they put out the fire. Then his mother would certainly get to hear he’d been on the beach with Emma. Recently, Magnie hadn’t been entirely truthful when his mother quizzed him about the nanny. What business was it of hers, after all?

But a boy stood there. A young boy. He was dressed in a white T-shirt and white shorts, so it looked as if he was in his underwear, that he’d sleepwalked out of a dream. Magnie recognized him. His mother had pointed him out when he’d walked with her to the shop one morning: ‘That’s the daft child that lives in Dennis Gear’s old place. They say he set fire to the school and he’ll set fire to us all one day.’ Magnie hadn’t said anything. He knew his mother had had a soft spot for Dennis Gear – there’d been rumours about him and her having a fling at one time – and she hated the fact that the house had been changed so much. And maybe there was a touch of guilt about the way the old man died.

Now he felt sorry for the child, who looked so confused. The chanting around the fire, which had started as something to do with mocking a rival sports team, changed, became nastier. He made out the word and couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. ‘Retard, retard, retard.’ Magnie looked at Emma. She worked with children. Surely she would do something, take the boy into her arms and comfort him. They had to get him back to his family. But Emma made no move. She was still observing the scene below her. Magnie thought perhaps she was checking on Charlie and Martha. She wasn’t looking at the boy standing above them. Magnie stood up and yelled at the group to stop their taunting, but his words were swallowed up by the noise. The chant changed. Now they were calling: ‘Hangman, hangman, hangman.’

The boy had his eyes shut, his hands over his ears to block out the sound and the sight. Magnie couldn’t believe that folk could be so cruel. He knew they weren’t all cruel people. It was the drink and the fact that they were anonymous, part of the gang, changed by the flickering light into one monstrous, shouting whole.

Magnie scrambled up the bank to the child and picked him up in his arms. The boy didn’t struggle. He felt very light, like a bird. There was no flesh on him. At the other side of the bank, out of sight of the fire and the teenagers, he set the boy on his feet. The chanting had stopped, as if the hidden kids were suddenly ashamed of what they’d done. Magnie took the child’s hand. ‘It’s Christopher, isn’t it? Come on then, Christopher, your mother and father will wonder where you are. Let’s get you home to them.’

It was only when he turned back that he saw the shadow. A shape that he recognized, staring after him.

Copyright © 2018 Ann Cleeves.

Comment below for a chance to win a signed ARC of Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves!

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Comments

  1. rsromanoff

    I am so looking forward to this book, although I am sad that it is the end of the series.

  2. Tom Moore

    Looks like a great finish to to a great series

  3. Pat Murphy

    I have read a few of the series but only real contact has been PBS series and our local station keeps repeating the same ones. Would really like to read more.

  4. John Smith

    It would be hard moving to an island and not having a roof on one’s cottage!

  5. MaryC

    Looking forward to reading Wild Fire.

  6. Karen Mikusak

    Would love to win!

  7. Jackie Wisherd

    I always ebjoy reading s5ories set in the British Isles. I know I would like this story.

  8. Pearl

    Wonderful series which I enjoyed greatly. This book sounds fascinating. Love the story and setting.

  9. Joan

    Love this series- look forward to this

  10. ellie

    A captivating finale which I would love to read.

  11. John Davis

    Excellent metaphors, and a maestro of dialogue. Story is paced, and languid by turns. Well done.

  12. William Parish

    I would love to read this book!!

  13. Carolyn Roney

    Looking forward to this book! Hate to see the series end. 😢

  14. Susanne Troop

    Sounds great!

  15. Joye I

    I am always looking for new authors to read. This book sounds like the kind I enjoy reading.

  16. tinalouise22

    I’m working my way through this series now, yet am sorry to hear it will be ending. I’ll slow down and enjoy them while I can!

  17. Vicki Hancock

    Would LOVE to read. Sounds awesome!

  18. Tom Measday
  19. Gary rejsek

    Love it!

  20. Elena L.

    Wow, this cover is beautiful and the settings amazing! Would love to read =)

  21. Joan Schramm

    I love this series, and really hope this won’t be the last book!

  22. Stephanie Cueva
  23. Barbara Lorentz

    Looking forward to the book. Sad to think it’s the last of a great series.

  24. Douglass Abramson

    I love Shetland!

  25. Susan Robinette

    It’s hard to believe this is the last of the series. I’d love to read it.

  26. Laurence Coven

    Ann Cleeves was one of HenryVII’s wives

  27. Jean

    Love Ann Cleeve’s books! Looking forward to this new addition!

  28. Chris lefevre

    Can’t wait to read this book!

  29. vicki wurgler

    I love to read a good mystery

  30. Destiny Whirlwind-Soldier

    Love the TV series! Didn’t know it was based on a book series. Excited to read them!

  31. Paul Gada

    Never heard of this series, but may be interested.

  32. Jill Porco

    Loved the BBC adaptations of this series…this book looks like it fits right in!

  33. Dianne Casey

    I really liked the synopsis of the book
    Sounds like a great read. New author and series to me.

  34. Michael Carter

    I’d love to win.
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks!

  35. Stephanie L Nelson

    I would love to win a copy!

  36. lasvegasnv

    looks interesting

  37. Lisa CARR

    This book sounds so exciting!! I would love to win a copy

  38. Anita

    I love watching this series on TV, and have read a few of the books. Would love to read this one as well.

  39. Natalie

    Would love to read this!

  40. Shelby Forbes

    Wild Fire is just the ticket I need to help feed my addiction the the mystery/suspense genre that I’ve been hooked on lately.

  41. Cortney Sparks

    Sounds like a excellent book

  42. Christy Karch

    Looks like a great read thank you for sharing

  43. vickie dailey

    this series is new too me – loved the provided sneak peek – can these books be read as standalones?

  44. Sara M Lontcoski

    Catches your attention right away.

  45. joel timmons

    Island. Adventure. For. Sure. Wanna. Read. This

  46. Pat Dupuy

    I love the Shetland series and Jimmy Perez!

  47. Crimgirl55

    I really liked the show so I wanted to get the books. Have read the first two books and now will have to add this one to my list. I really like them.

  48. Gail Coulson

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the Shetland series. Looking forward to reading this book, but hate to see the series end.

  49. Toni A Laliberte

    I love the show, so I’m sure I’d love the book too. Thanks for the chance.

  50. Cynthia St. Germain

    This looks like a wonderful read

  51. Sarah Johnson

    I love these books!

  52. Pam Walrath

    I love this series and would be so excited to receive an advanced copy!

  53. ViolinGeek

    Oh, dear. I think I need to read this series. Would love to win this book!

  54. Sue

    I’ve read all the books in the Shetland series and I’m looking forward to #8…..but sad to see the series end.

  55. Catherine Myers

    I would love to read something in the series.

  56. Lori P

    Very intimate tone from the outset, which makes it easy to feel as if we’ve moved to the remote community too. Grabs you, for sure.

  57. Jean Barber

    Great series. Looking forward to this one!

  58. Janet Gould

    I can’t wait to read this book!

  59. Sally Schmidt

    Sounds good so far. Want to read.

  60. Judi

    This has been such a great series and it has saved me tons of airfare!

  61. Deb Philippon

    I’d love to read this. Wish me luck!

  62. Marie

    Would love to read

  63. Paula Adams

    Love the cover. Thank you for a chance at the giveaway.

  64. Karl Stenger

    I love her novels and would enjoy reading the newest one.

  65. Erica Stafura

    This sounds like an awesome series that I would love to get into!

  66. Susan Morris

    This sounds like a great ending to this series. Can’t wait to read it!

  67. Sharon Ansell Lindsay

    I’ve read the entire Shetland series, and so excited that another book is coming! Can’t wait 😊

  68. Shannon

    I haven’t read this series but I have heard good things. I’ve added the first book to my TBR list!

  69. jane

    Another great entry in this series, can’t wait to read. I too am sad to see it end.

  70. Saundra K. Warren

    This could be a series I will have to read!!!!

  71. Katrina Yurenka

    would really like to continue reading this!

  72. Amber Hall

    Ohhhhhh what a good teaser. I hope I win. I’ve read all the Shetland books. Thanks for the opportunity.

  73. Sharon Fontenot

    Thanks for the excerpt! I’m sad that this is the last book of the Shetland series. I’ll miss Jimmy Perez and the cast of characters as well as the islands and the atmosphere.

  74. Dee

    I would love to win! Looking forward to reading this one.

  75. teresa sopher

    Sad that this is the end…..

  76. Tiffany

    Can’t wait

  77. Marjorie Manharth

    Loved this series.

  78. Tom Measday

    Love Shetland, visited Lerwick 2 weeks ago where they are filming the latest episodes

  79. Sue Farrell

    I hate to see this series end. Both my hubby and I like to read the books and watch the TV program.

  80. patricia sopel

    Hope my library has the rest of the series :). Thanks!

  81. Jane Schwarz

    Thanks for the great giveaway. Sounds like a thrilling read.

  82. Carolyn

    Sounds like a great book!

  83. pat murphy

    Sounds like a wonderful read .

  84. susan beamon

    The book starts out very interesting. Sure would like it in my library.

  85. Valerie Wiesner

    I love Ann Cleeves’ books, and this one sounds great!

  86. Ruth Arcone

    Sounds great

  87. [email protected]

    love this series, can ‘t wait to read this book. sad that it’s the final book in the series.

  88. Rachel Carter

    Looks good!

  89. Kyva Arendes

    No. This can’t be the end. The character of Jimmy Perez has to go on . . . (but I’m going to read this anyway — the first two chapters piqued my interest)

  90. Elisabeth Davis

    I love this series and I prompted me to visit Shetland, twice, in fact. I am sorry to see the series end, but I look forward to other Cleeves books.

  91. Lee Ann Daugherty

    Chilling!

  92. Deborah Munn

    My husband and I have read the whole series so far. Can’t wait for Wild Fire, but sad it’s the final of the series.

  93. dglove

    Can’t wait to read. I love all her books

  94. Julie Durovchic
  95. Julie Durovchic

    Love The Shetland series. So sad it will be the last.

  96. Karen

    Ooh, looking forward to another great one, though sorry this is the last!

  97. Maggie Stockwell

    Would love to read this book.

  98. SUSAN GANNON

    This a a winner— thanks for chance to win

  99. Kris Holtan

    Can’t wait for September, but it gives me time to reread the previous books in the series. Sad that this will be the end. I adore Jimmy Perez.

  100. Carol Weston

    Looking forward to this book by Ann Cleeves,would love to win.

  101. Nancy Wolfe

    Great finish to this amazing series. But I do hate to see it end. Thank you for the giveaway.

  102. Karen Minter

    Sounds fascinating!

  103. DJ Dyda

    Love this series along with Vera Stanhope. Will miss Jimmy.

  104. Carrie

    Jimmy Perez is wonderful and Vera Stanhope is divine! I have just been introduced to Inspector Ramsay and cannot wait to see what else you have in store.

  105. Marisa Young

    I love this author. I can’t wait to read this book.

  106. Gloria Trumbauer

    Eagerly awaiting the new book! A bit sad that it will be the last one.

  107. SUSAN GANNON

    wow would love to read thanks

  108. Karen Hester

    Too bad this is the last

  109. Kate Baxter

    Ooh! I love this series. Sad to hear that it’s the last. Thanks for the chance of winning a copy.

  110. L

    An intriguing beginning. If this is the last in the series, I better get started on the first!

  111. peter greene

    I’m really looking forward to this book, but I’m sad that it might be the last of Jimmy Perez.

  112. Debra McCullough

    I will add this to my list.

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