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Reviews / Shetland IV: ‘a fine and nasty ride ahead’

Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez. Photo: BBC

Murder grips the isles as DI Jimmy Perez returns for a fourth run of Shetland on the BBC, writes Jordan Ogg.

“There’s a murderer running loose and there’s been another murder. I dinnae think he’s the killer, but I’m still going to have to spend six episodes trying to prove it”, shouts DI Jimmy Perez as he climbs the Lodberry steps to face his next investigation.

While that’s not quite how Shetland series four begins, it’s a serviceable summary of what’s in store.

That and a scattering of sub plots about Shetland being a deadly place for strong women, and a line on the pull of the mainland for promising islanders who yearn to spread their wings.

Those who miss their chance can always fall back on becoming murderers and finding their way south in handcuffs via Loganair.

There may also be something going on with the electricity, for these Shetlanders never have any lights on in their houses. Time to call Tavish Scott and get him onto the hydro, if he’s not too busy hosting the folk festival at his house in Bressay. It was fine to see the rain stay off for that scene.

Thankfully one strong woman remains in Tosh, although in being Perez’s sidekick she’s still encumbered with men always telling her what to do. After the ordeal she suffered in the last series she’s considering a transfer to Edinburgh. Meanwhile her boss is hoping she’ll stay. As one of the series’ best developed characters, no doubt the audience is too.

When it comes to deaths there’s a crafty weaving of esoteric Unst history in their circumstances, as well as an odd penchant for kilns. One of these structures actually looks more like a tattie hoose, but hey, who’s bothered by such trivialities?

An old killing is resurrected with the arrival of Thomas Malone, fresh out of jail after a 23-year stretch. Bearing a bald head and a thick beard, the universally understood appearance of all likely murderers, he just wants to drink ale and listen to his walkman.

But when a driven young journalist, who happens to be the daughter of the cop who locked up Malone, is found dead in mirror circumstances to the first woman he was accused of killing, his chances of finding peace seem to be six feet deep.

Perez, now well worn in by Dougie Henshall, has his doubts about the whole Malone affair. The DI spies murky Norwegians on the sidelines, leaving the promise of extreme cultural vandalism in store as the isles’ lauded Scandinavian connections look to be rotten.

If this is Shetland going native on the Scandi-noir theme, then all power to its creators. By now their characters seem real, as does their feel for the landscape. Panoramic views are evenly distributed, serving well as the atmospheric glue that holds everything together.

As an opener this could prove to be the best episode of Shetland yet. If the ending is anything to go by, we’re in for a fine and nasty ride ahead.