Monday, October 10, 2016


Douglas Henshall as DI Perez.
Premise:  The chilly, sweeping landscapes of the Shetland Island, located in northern Scotland, provide the setting for these well-crafted mysteries. The islands' senior police officer is Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall), an introspective widower with a loving teenage stepdaughter. Jimmy's small department consists of the quirky Detective Sergeant Alison "Tosh" MacIntosh, rookie Detective Constable Sandy Wilson, and veteran police sergeant Billy McCabe. Without a pathologist, Jimmy relies on local general practitioner Cora McLean (who is rarely wrong in predicting the time of death). The police station is based in Lerwick, which boasts a population of 7,500. Jimmy frequently has to travel throughout the islands to investigate murders.

Running Time: 50 minutes. In seasons 1 and 2, each mystery spanned two episodes. The third season consisted of six episodes comprising one case.

Status:  To date, four seasons have been broadcast between 2013 and 2016. They are all available on DVD in the U.S.

Production Notes:  British author Ann Cleeves has written eight Shetland Island novels since 2006. The first one, Raven Black, won the Gold Dagger award given by the Crime Writers' Association. Reference the TV series, Cleeves said on her web site: "The TV adaptations are very often very different from the books--the scriptwriters cut some characters and add others, cut big chunks of plot and sometimes they even change the murderer! But I'm very relaxed about that. Prose and film are different forms." Cleeves also wrote the Vera Stanhope novels, which were adapted for television as the series Vera, starring Brenda Blethyn.

Our Review:  Believable, well-cast characters and strong writing would be enough to warrant an enthusiastic recommendation for Shetland. However, it's the setting that separates this mystery series from many of its rivals. The jagged cliffs, sheep-scattered hills, exquisite stone buildings, and dilapidated crofts offer a glimpse into a different world. However, it's not just the locale. Shetland integrates the culture of northern Scotland, from festivals like Up Helly Aa to tiny islands with only one church. The series' highlight may be the season 2 episode "Raven Black," in which a teenage girl's murder could be related to a case of a missing child that occurred 19 years earlier.

Grade: A.


  1. The episodes about Michael Thompson has a major plot loophole- how did Leane knew Sarwar? There is no explanation to that. It was a great story, but there is this detail that got overlooked, and it was very important. Better care next time, screenwriters!

    1. I don't recall that discrepancy, but will look for it next time I watch that episode.

    2. Stephen Walters as Thomas Malone in series 4 is standout award worthy.

  2. 'Shetland' is on Netflix in the US and I'm currently happily binge-watching! I think it's a great series. The scenery is definitely a big draw. I'm ready to move to Shetland and marry Jimmy Perez!

  3. I too LOVE Shetland and Jimmy Perez! I'm now addicted to British crime shows. After all these years, I finally got Netflix! Also, I'm a bit sheepish on gore, so this was perfect for me.

  4. Sarwar was Leane's mother's contact with the police in the unit that protects witnesses of crimes. Sarwar gave them a new identity and moved the family to the mainland. Leane's mother couldn't cope with her new environment and she committed suicide. That is why Leane hated Sarwar and tried to kill her.