Shetland Season 4 Review

  • Series Title: Shetland
  • Season: 4
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network:  BBC (Produced by ITV Studios)
  • Cast: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD
  • General Information: Based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves

This review contains spoilers for Season 4 of Shetland.

Shetland Season 4 is a single mystery story told in six parts. The story opens with Thomas Malone being released from prison after his conviction is overturned. Malone was accused and originally found guilty of killing Lizzie Kilmuir but some evidence was ignored and not presented at his trial of a possible second suspect, thus Malone’s release. DI Jimmy Perez and his team are soon investigating the cold case, to try to find the other suspect and determine if Malone was guilty or innocent. Many people on Shetland, including the now-retired police officer who investigated the original case, believe Malone is guilty and it was “only a technicality” that got him released. Others are convinced he was railroaded and want actual justice for Lizzie. This causes high tensions in the small community.

Shortly after Malone is released and returns to Shetland another young girl is found strangled and left in a lime kiln, like Lizzie. Perez and his team investigate this murder as well. Everyone assumes the two crimes are linked. The second girl, Sally was also a reporter who worked for the Shetland Gazette but that seemed to be wanting to make her mark so she could leap to a bigger urban paper. Sally is found but her phone and computer are missing, making some connection to her work seem more likely.

Much of the story has Tosh trying to find out what Sally was working on and if it got her killed. She has a witness who tells Tosh that Sally was talking to and possibly arguing with a “Norwegian man” at the music festival before she was killed. At the paper, Tosh discovers Sally covered the Norway beat – stories from Norway that might have a connection to Shetland. She discovers a man was killed on an oil rig, and the company might be negligent. When Tosh interviews the man’s wife, she insists her husband was a teetotaler, so he couldn’t have been drunk when his arm was torn off by a drive shaft and he bled to death. At the company, she also discovers all records of random drunk and alcohol tests of the man have disappeared. But she also runs into the man’s wife, she insists she was mistaken. Even Tosh’s pleas that someone else might die fail to persuade the woman to not revise her story.

Tosh then starts to look into the “Norwegian”, eventually going to Bergen to investigate. She discovers Sally was looking into a Norwegian far-right group called the NDF that was planning a major terror attack against migrants and immigrants to Norway. However, the Norwegian police, though initially helpful, eventually stonewall because they know about the NDF and they have an undercover agent in place, plus they are monitoring in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack by the right. Unfortunately, just the arrival of Tosh and Perez makes the double-agent vulnerable and he is killed. However, the police officer that Tosh met, Lars, seems to be very interested in her. Tosh turns him down.

Later Lars turns up in Shetland, and Tosh at first thinks he’s there because he wants to pursue a relationship with her. But he soon gives himself away – he’s a member of the NDF and he’s the one who exposed the Norwegian Security Forces agent, which led to his death. Lars also attacks the witness who saw him at the music festival where he talked to Sally. And Lars trashes the witness’s croft. But Tosh realizes that Lars lied about “never being in Shetland” and she and Perez arrest him when he goes to the hospital to “talk” to the witness. Perez and Tosh interview Lars, and he eventually says enough that they are able to conclude what the NDF target is and inform the Norwegian police and security services. But Lars didn’t kill Sally.

Back to square one, Perez and his team look at everything again about the murders of Lizzie and Sally, still assuming they are linked. By this time, they’ve had the second DNA sample analyzed and discovered it’s a partial match for a suspect (Alan) – meaning it belonged to the suspect’s father. But when Perez goes to Donna, the suspect’s mother, for DNA of her late husband, she refuses to provide it. The body is exhumed and doesn’t match. Perez confronts Donna and discovers her son, Alan, was the product – she says, of a one night stand and that she was so drunk she doesn’t even remember the man’s name. Perez has his doubts about that, but there’s nothing they can do – unless they have someone to compare the sample to, there is no way to determine who Alan’s father was. This sits on the back burner for a bit in the story.

Eventually, Perez both figures out and has confirmation of who Alan’s father was, and he gets a confession out of who killed Lizzie. It turns out not to be Alan, his mysterious genetic father, or Malone. And who it is is very interesting, as well as the actual motive – but I’m not going to reveal that. However, when the murderer confesses, first to Perez and then in an interview room formerly to Perez and his superiors brought in from Glasgow to investigate the cold case, the outside police accuse Lizzie’s murderer of killing Sally. She denies it and says she has no idea who killed Sally.

This throws Perez, his team, and the outside police force operatives from Glasgow into a tizzy. Everything was built on the cases being related and now, once again, they almost need to start over. But they know that Sally’s journalism career wasn’t the cause of her murder (though some of her photographs lead to finding Lizzie’s murderer). Perez goes back to the retired police officer for closure on why he framed Thomas Malone in the first place, destroyed and buried evidence, and basically did a lousy job – especially as they now know Malone didn’t kill Lizzie. This confrontation leads Perez to discover who killed Sally. I’m not going to reveal that.

I enjoyed Shetland Season 4, the scenery of the Shetland islands, and in this story of Norway is beautiful. The cases are complex and wind around through various information being uncovered, leading to a variety of suspects. The story also addresses the prejudice against someone different (Thomas seems to have some sort of mental defect or disability, but it’s never stated outright) and against someone who was convicted and then released. Scottish police officers from some form of major crimes squad are sent to take over Perez’s investigation and basically seem to want to convict Malone again, despite any evidence that he didn’t do it. However, Sally’s investigations in Norway turn out to be a red herring, as do her investigations of the oil platform drilling company, as her death really has nothing to do with her job. And as with most Shetland stories, yet again we have the uncovering of a decades-old affair in the midst of an investigation to lead to a lot of pain and hurt in the present. Still, overall it’s a great story and I really liked it. Season 4 and the series, in general, is recommended.

Read my Review of Shetland Seasons 1 and 2.

Read my Review of Shetland Season 3.

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Shetland Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Shetland
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Network:  BBC (Produced by ITV Studios)
  • Cast: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD
  • General Information: Based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves

The third season of Shetland is all one single mystery and at six hour-long parts you would think that it feels overly long, however, it doesn’t – it just feels almost like a real case, with the police pursuing multiple lines of inquiry, rather than simply running into red herrings. The season opens on a car ferry to the Shetland Islands, a 12-hour trip. A young woman witnesses an altercation between an older man and a younger man. When the older man pushes the younger one and falls, then leaves, she rushes over to the younger man. She finds out the young man is named Robbie, and the two get to talking and then share drinks in the onboard bar. But the next morning, Robbie is nowhere to be found. The girl, Leanne, reports him as missing to desk Sgt. Billy, but at first, he pooh-poohs her. Later, the police, under Perez, treats the case as a missing person case. Perez interviews the other man that Leanne described, who is known as Michael McGuire. When he returns to the station, his boss, Rhona, tells him that McGuire launched a complaint – accusing Perez of intimidation, harassment and using bad language. Perez is stunned. Rhona just tells him to stay away from McGuire.

A few days later, Robbie’s body is found at the recycling center. But before Perez, Sandy, and Tosh have even gotten the body down from a claw used to move old clothing and such – they receive a call. The local Shetland police are to have nothing to do with the case, it’s to be left to mainland police. Perez is confused. He and his team investigate quietly, and also head to Glasgow to get to the bottom of it. Perez is able to have Cora, his forensic pathologist unofficially look at the body. She isn’t able to do a full autopsy, but she tells Perez that the boy, Robbie, was locked in the shipping container and suffocated. Perez knows he must have been put into the container on the ferry by a person or persons unknown. He also eventually discovers that although the doors to the car storage area are normally locked, and all car ferry passengers are required to stay in the ferry’s passenger areas – one of the doors had a broken lock and the light by the security camera was broken.

Perez continues to do what he can do, investigating what he can, despite the stonewalling by higher levels of his own department. Then a sniper shoots Leanne and McGuire. Perez then finds out part of the story – McGuire is actually Michael Thompson. He was placed in witness protection because he was going to testify against Arthur McCall – a mobster and major player in the drugs scene in Glasgow. Perez and his team quickly realize that Michael and Leanne were shot by a professional hit man. Again, Perez and his team go to Glasgow. By this point, the police realize they made a mistake in not telling Perez who Thompson was. Perez also starts to become attracted to the witness protection officer who was Thompson’s handler, even though she had concocted the fake complaint against him and had set up a fake alibi as well.

Perez, Sandy, and Tosh become more and more involved in the investigation into McCall, who is now free since the case against him collapsed without Thompson’s testimony. McCall threatens Perez. Tosh is picked up at the airport by one of McCall’s men, kidnapped, threatened, and raped. Perez finds out that Michael left an answering machine message for his wife, but it’s badly garbled. Cleaning up the audio leads to the Level Nine club in Glasgow, and an old report of an attack on Burns Night. That investigation turns up some interesting history (especially considering what’s just happened to Tosh). Eventually, Perez and his team discover some police corruption and who ordered the hit on Thompson – but it seems to be completely unrelated to the death of Robbie.

Perez and his team return to Lerwick and start over investigating Robbie’s death. Perez does figure it out and catches the person who did it, and it is a tragic story, but I’m not going to spoil it.

Shetland is a great series. Even though Season 3 is all one long story, it doesn’t feel drawn-out, rather it’s like the real twists and turns and changes of focus one can imagine might actually happen in a real case. This season also expands the show – have Perez and his team flying back and forth to Glasgow and introducing some of the police officers there. We still get to see some of the wild beauty of the Shetland Islands, but we also see a lot of Glasgow. I enjoyed Shetland Season 3 and I recommend it.

Read my Review of Shetland Seasons 1 and 2.

Shetland Seasons 1 and 2 Review

  • Series Title: Shetland
  • Season: 1 and 2
  • Episodes: 4 (Stories, each are 2 parts)
  • Discs: 3
  • Network:  BBC (Produced by ITV Studios)
  • Cast: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD
  • General Information: Based on the mystery novels by Ann Cleeves

Red Bones
Season 1 Episode 1 (of 1)

An older woman looks through photographs in an isolated croft in Scotland, specifically the Shetland Islands. She hears something outside, goes outside to investigate, and there’s a gunshot. The next morning, a young police officer, Sandy Wilson is calling for “Mima”. He finds the body on the property and calls it in, but his cell phone signal gives out.

DI Jimmy Perez arrives at the croft and calls his photographer and begins an investigation. He has Sandy call for an ambulance from the landline. Sandy has to plug in the phone to get it working. Later at the station, Perez puts Sandy on leave because he cannot investigate his own family. DI Perez interviews suspects and tries to find out what happened. There is also an archeological dig taking place on Mima’s land near her croft. The dig had recently uncovered a human skull, which isn’t totally unexpected in an archeological dig, but it seems to have precipitated the murder. The village’s annual festival is coming up, and at one point Perez tries to have it canceled, but he fails – the village needs both the tourist money and the change of routine.

The villages in Shetland are beautiful, and the countryside is wild but gorgeous. But all the houses are isolated, and so are the people. Near to Mima’s croft are a richer family, who were the first to have a good-sized fishing trawler on the island, and the rest of Mima’s relatives who are poorer. Everyone from Sandy to all the relatives insists this isn’t a problem.

As Perez investigates further he also looks into the Shetland Bus, a group of fishing boats that aided the resistance and helped people to escape the Nazis in World War II. They brought spies, saboteurs, and money into Norway and came back with refugees. Both Mima’s long-dead husband and Perez’s chief suspect were involved in the Shetland Bus, and the photo Mima was looking at was of the two, plus a third man.

One of the archeological students had also befriended Mima and said she was someone she “could tell anything”. Mima had given her a necklace with an image of Freya, the Norse god of love. Perez discovers that the third man in Mima’s photo was wearing the necklace. This girl, Hattie, calls Perez in distress, but the call drops. Perez treats Hattie as a missing person, and later her body is found at the dig. At first, it looks like suicide, but Perez is convinced it’s murder. He’s proven right by forensics.

The search for the murderer concludes during the festival, and Perez actually hears someone slip and mention the phone being unplugged at the croft, something only Sandy and Perez knew. Perez arrests the murderer and at the festival, the police stop a member of Sandy’s family from killing another relative who seemed suspicious but wasn’t actually guilty.

Shetland – Red Bones is an atmospheric mystery. The scenery is beautiful. The crofts and villages are isolated, which adds to the atmosphere. Everyone carries cell phones but they seldom work because this is very rural Scotland. I also really liked Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez. “Red Bones”, per Wikipedia, is the only story in season one, though the DVD set bundles Season 1 and Season 2 together, so there are three more two-part stories in the set. Recommended!

Raven Black
Season 2 Episode 1 (of 3)

“Raven Black” opens with a Midsummer beach party. Two teenaged girls are starting into a bonfire, as an older and slightly suspicious man stares back at them through the flames. The next morning, one of the girls, Catherine Ross is found dead on the beach. Jimmy Perez will investigate the murder with his team. A tabloid reporter also tries to connect the murder to the disappearance of a young girl nineteen years earlier. Perez sees very little connecting the two crimes – and is fighting public opinion throughout the story.

Catherine and her friend Sally not only attended the party together, but they had, on a dare, visited the “strange recluse” living in an isolated croft on the hill. For many in the nearby isolated Shetland village, the man’s “strangeness” is proof he’s involved. This also becomes an important thread to the story.

At the end of part one of the two-part story, a second body is found buried in the peat – it’s Catriona, the girl who disappeared nineteen years ago. But as Sandy says when Perez and his team are reviewing the case, he could see the recluse, Magnus, “for Catriona, maybe or for Catherine, maybe, but not both”. As it turns out, Catriona’s death was an accident, she fell in the peat cuttings and hit her head on a rock which cracked open her skull and killed her. Catherine’s death is murder, but despite a number of red herrings, it’s a major surprise who actually killed her.

Perez discovers that Catherine was only using her cell phone as a camera. She wasn’t on social media, and she made few calls or texts for a teenager. Magnus receives a gift, a beautiful portrait phot Catherine took on her photo, adjusted with an app, and then printed. The young girl Catherine babysat also receives a gift, an email with a film – Catherine asking questions, “What do you like about living on Shetland? What don’t you like? Tell me a secret.” Perez realizes that between Catherine taking pictures and her film, she may have stirred up something. That her phone was missing, her laptop wiped and even the hard copy notebook of her film project emptied makes the idea even more probable.

Perez starts to look at the older man from the Midsummer’s Party – especially after he finds a clip from Catherine’s film where she accuses him of assaulting young girls. When Sally goes missing, he calls for a search and “obvs” on the suspicious man. He and his sergeant, Sandy, go first to the man’s trucking company and then to his trawler. When Tosh (Alison McIntosh, Perez’s other detective) calls Perez and tells him that the man in question has an alibi, Perez is forced to consider a new suspect – and it’s pretty dark.

Shetland is an atmospheric British mystery series, set in the Shetland Islands, and filmed in Scotland. But against the rural and wild beauty, DI Perez’s territory is full of secrets, intolerance, and harsh conditions. Magnus nearly becomes a scapegoat, and it’s fortunate for him that Perez is more forward-thinking than many of the people in his village. As it is, Perez is forced to put Magnus in protective custody, Magnus’ pet bird is killed by the same people that trashed his place, and Perez discovers Magnus was arrested in 1969 and beaten by corrupt cops. Because of the bad experience, Magnus never told anyone he’d seen Catriona being chased on the moors, though her death did turn out to be an unfortunate accident. The contrast between the wild beauty and the horrors bubbling beneath the surface make Shetland an intriguing series to watch.

Blue Lightning
Season 2 Episode 2 (of 3)

The second episode of the second season of Shetland takes place on Fair Isle, DI Jimmy Perez’s home and a tiny island of just 70 people. The episode opens with some researchers studying birds on the island and a big party that Perez’s daughter is attending. We find out later than the party was for Angus’s 18th birthday. Angus is DI Perez’s godson. But when the lead researcher, Dr. Anna Blake is found dead in her lab the next morning, DI Jimmy Perez and his DS Alison “Tosh” McIntosh arrive to investigate. Soon there is a second murder, Peter Latimer, a graduate student also working with the research team studying the birdlife of the island. To make matters worse, a gale is brewing and Fair Isle’s tiny airport is shut down and there is no way to reach the mainland or the other Shetland Islands until the storm passes. Sandy remains at Lerwick but is involved in the case, doing the legwork for DI Perez that proves vital.

DI Perez and DS McIntosh rush by plane to Fair Isle ahead of the storm and begin their investigation. They discover one of the scientists, Peter Latimer is missing. He’s found and claims he was researching birds, but this is later disproven. Tosh and Jimmy don’t know what he was up to – but they know it wasn’t research. However, by the end of part 1 in this 2-part story, there is an explosion and fire in an abandoned hut or hide and Peter, who is found inside, dies from his injuries. Sandy reports to Perez it definitely wasn’t an accident, Peter was hit on the head from behind.

But Peter isn’t the only question. Perez and Tosh find out a researcher named Finley was taking a lot of secret photographs of Anna Blake. Sandy interviews a woman in Lerwick who Finley had previously stalked. She tells Sandy that Finley sent her creepy pictures of herself after they had one date and she declined to see him again. Finley was cautioned, and eventually, the emails stopped. However, the woman tells Sandy that Finley never attacked or assaulted her. Tosh, however, figures out that if Finley was stalking Anna he might know if she was having an affair. It turns out she was – with Peter. When Perez and Tosh confront Anna’s husband, another researcher on the bird project, he eventually admits he knew about Anna’s affairs, including the one with Peter. Neither Peter nor Tosh at first realize the importance of the word, “affairs”.

Anna and her husband have a son, Joe, who returns from school early at the party. He tries to talk to Angus but is thrown out by his parents (who are great friends of Jimmy’s). Joe keeps trying to contact Angus but fails. Finally, Joe contacts Jimmy and accuses Donnie (Angus’s father and Jimmy’s friend) of murdering Anna. He even accuses Perez of covering up for his friend. DI Jimmy Perez handles this turn of events well, finally discovering that Joe is upset because he and Angus are both gay and started a relationship before he was sent off to school and Donnie had a fit about Angus. Perez lets Joe know that it was wrong that he was mistreated for being gay. But this information leads Jimmy to a new line of inquiry.

Perez and Tosh, with help from Sandy discover that Professor Bill Warren, who claimed he met Anna, her husband, and her son Joe, when they all arrived to do research at the Fair Isle research station was lying. He met her some 18 years before on another research trip. Also, Bill and his wife had a son, David, who died from leukemia. Their David looks a lot like Joe. It becomes clear that Bill and Anna also had an affair, resulting in a son that Anna never told Bill about and that her husband raised as his own. The newest person on the island the night of the party is Bill Warren’s wife, who came to the island to surprise him on their wedding anniversary. She seems anxious to get off the island, especially once the storm is over and the planes start flying again.

I’m not going to spoil who the murderer is, though you might guess. I was a little confused that only one of the two crimes was solved, though. Still, with “Blue Lightning” being set on DI Perez’s home island it added even more to the intimacy of the crime and I liked this story a lot. Jimmy knows everyone involved and is even related to a lot of the major players in the story, so it’s even more personal but he’s extremely professional in his approach to interviews and investigations.

Dead Water
Season 2 Episode 3 (of 3)

The final episode of Season 2 of Shetland begins with DI Perez talking to an old friend of his in the pub. The friend of his is now a reporter in London who has returned to the Shetland Islands for some reason. The friend, Jerry Markham, is a reporter and says he needs to head out so the two end up not having much time to talk and plan to meet up ‘later’. The next morning, the desk sergeant gently tells Perez his friend died the previous night in a car accident. Perez goes out to investigate and seems to find evidence of a suspicious death. His boss sends in an accident investigator and is concerned that Perez may be too personally involved. Meanwhile, there’s to be a wedding in the village that weekend. It’s an open wedding and the entire island is invited. The bride’s friends even put a straw bride and groom on the village sign, to let everyone know about the wedding.

Meanwhile, Sandy is studying for the CID exam. When Sandy goes to investigate Markham’s suspicious accident, he interviews a local salmon farmer, who he finds pulling dead fish out of the water. The salmon farmer has lived on the island his entire life and inherited the farm and land from his father. He blames a new gas company for the death of his fish, saying that the water is bad. Sandy also recovers Markham’s phone, though his laptop is missing. The laptop has pictures of the farm and the Save the Sound protest against the gas pipeline.

Perez, DS “Tosh” McIntosh, Sandy, and the new accident investigator continue to investigate – looking in to the new gas company, which needs the farmer’s land to complete their pipeline, the Save the Sound protest , which was run by the bride to be, Evie, her father, Cameron, and her husband to be, John, and other possibilities. The heavily damaged laptop is recovered and shows an affair between John and the wife of a guy who is in favor of the gas pipeline. But they also discover that someone from the gas company was leaking information about the company to Markham. He also happened to be Evie’s flatmate at university.

Seeing that everything leads back to John, the groom to be, Perez is ready to interview him. The wedding does occur, but there are some high tensions at the village hall party afterward. Tosh and Perez go to John’s house and find it trashed and a lot of blood. They call in the rest of the police and stop the accident investigator from leaving for Aberdeen. It’s the cliffhanger between part 1 and part 2.

In part 2, Perez focuses on Evie and her family. He discovers Evie was embezzling money from the Save the Sound fund so she could buy a house in Edinburgh and escape her smothering father. John found out about it and put the money back. Earlier there had been an attack on the salmon farmer’s house, with graffiti and destruction – including “get out” written in blue marine paint. The paint is common on the islands so it doesn’t seem to be much help. However, Evie had used the same type of paint to paint one of her father’s hand-made boats, and there were flecks of the paint inside the car. Perez discovers Cameron, Evie’s father had had a discussion with Markham. John also talked to Markham, even though he told Perez he didn’t. Bit by bit, Perez puts things together, discovering a lot of goings on – old affairs, Evie’s embezzlement, etc. However, when he finds out who murdered Markham and John and that it goes back to another murder years ago that no one even knew about it turns out to be quite a surprise.

Again, the last mystery in season 2 is set in the wild Shetland Island, specifically in Lerwick and the surrounding areas. The mystery ends-up to involve the lives of the people, and the secrets they keep, rather than big issues like whether or not a gas pipeline will be built. It’s a complicated case. I also found that for this particular one, part 1 and part 2 seemed almost like two completely different mysteries, and the resolution of the case seemed to almost come from nowhere. Still, it’s an enjoyable series and it is recommended.

Outlander Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Outlander
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  5
  • Network:  Starz/SonyPictures
  • Cast:  Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

Season 3 of Outlander begins with Jamie and Claire separated and living completely separate lives. Jamie survives Culloden and joins up with a few additional survivors. The British army finds them and executes all the surviving “rebels” save Jamie. By an incredible act of luck, one of the British officers is the brother of an English officer whom Jamie spared a few years earlier. Owing Jamie a debt of honor he captures him and does not kill him. Jamie is on the run for a few more years, before being captured and sentenced to jail.

Claire meanwhile returns to her own time. She, her husband, Frank, and her daughter, Brianna, are living in Boston, where Frank is a history professor at Harvard. Claire is in a prison of her own, trapped in a loveless marriage. She eventually enrolls in Harvard medical school and becomes a surgeon, one of the first female surgeons in the US, at Boston General Hospital. But she and Frank are not happy. The discuss divorce once, but Frank won’t hear of it – fearing Claire will take Brianna from him. The second time the two discuss divorce, Brianna is eighteen. Frank intends to divorce Claire and marry his long-time mistress, a one-time grad student and now a linguistics professor. But Frank is killed in a car accident shortly after the discussion. Claire and Brianna return to Scotland and Roger, to try to find Jaime. They discover he survived Culloden and was jailed, but when the jail was closed, they find no evidence that Jamie was “transported” as an indentured servant.

Meanwhile, we discover what Jamie’s up to. Jamie had become the leader of the prisoners in his jail, and reluctantly befriended both governors of the prison, the second is John Grey whose life he had spared so many years ago. At one point, a man is found on the moors muttering about treasure and a white witch. This motivates Jamie to escape, which he does and he finds the island the man’s mutterings lead him to – but not Claire. He does find a treasure, but hides it again, taking only a single sapphire. When he’s recaptured he gives the sapphire to Grey, telling him the treasure box was empty. Much later, the prison is closed. Rather than turning Jamie over for transportation, Grey has him change his name and gets him a job as a groom (stable hand) in an English landlord’s house in England. Jamie does well there and eventually is bribed into having sex with the Englishman’s young daughter (it’s complicated). The girl is married off to a much older Earl and is soon pregnant. The Earl doesn’t believe that he’s the father of the child. The girl dies in childbirth, and during a struggle between Jamie, the girl’s distraught sister, and the two sisters’ parents – the Earl is killed. Jamie’s child, Willie is taken in by the sister. Soon after Jamie leaves.

Meanwhile, in Boston, Roger drops by – and tells Claire and Brianna he has found Jamie, he was a printer in Edinborough twenty years after Culloden. Brianna convinces Claire she must try to be with her one true love. Claire succeeds in her journey through the stones. She finds Jamie right away, and the two are happily reunited. Jamie is a printer, a smuggler, and also printing “seditious” pamphlets and helping what remains of the Scottish Rebellion. He’s also living in a rented room at a brothel. Claire, though surprised and upset, accepts everything as well because she loves Jamie so. She and Jamie catch-up on their twenty years apart. Claire shows Jamie pictures of his daughter.

However, one night, the exciseman comes calling and attacks Claire. In self-defense she kills him. At the same time, someone attacks Jamie’s nephew, Ian, at the print shop – during the struggle, the shop is set alight. Jamie is able to rescue Ian from the flames, but the shop is a total loss. Jamie, Claire, and Ian leave for the family estate. Once they arrive, Jenny, Jamie’s sister is extremely cold to Claire, not quite getting why she disappeared for so long.

Just as Jamie is about to reveal to Claire his last secrets from their time apart, two young girls rush into the room calling him “Daddy”. It turns out Jamie is married to Laoghaire MacKenzie. He quickly explains it was a marriage of convenience the two girls are from Laoghaire’s first marriage, and he and Laoghaire have lived apart most of the time of their marriage. Jamie consults Ned Gowan and confirms that because Claire was “missing” but not “dead” his own second marriage is null and void. But, to let him leave, Laoghaire demands alimony.

No problem, Jamie tells Claire and Ned – he knows of a treasure on a small island off the coast. They can get the treasure, go to France to sell the antique coins and jewels, and come back to pay off his other wife. But Jamie’s been in a fight and is injured and cannot swim to the Selkie Island. Young Ian offers to swim to the island instead. But a pirate vessel captures Ian and the jewels. Claire and Jamie discover the ship is Portuguese and probably going to Jamaica to sell Ian as a slave. They book passage on another ship.

The journey on the ship isn’t without issues – they are becalmed at one point. Then a British warship approaches, they press Claire into service as their ship’s surgeon to treat a fever on the ship. Claire recognizes the fever as Typhoid. Although the British ship loses many men, eventually the disease runs it’s course. But Claire discovers the young captain knows who Jamie is and instead of reuniting her with him in Kingston Jamaica, he intends to use her as bait.

Claire jumps ship at first opportunity and washes up on another island. She is bitten up by fire ants, becomes a bed for a python, and eventually meets a very strange defrocked priest and his mother-in-law. The priest offers to help her get to Jamaica “in a few days”. But he then complains one of his goats was killed “by a Chinaman” from a stranded ship. Claire realises this is “Mr. Willoughby” a friend of Jamie’s and a companion on their journey. She rushes across the island and is reunited with Jamie. They head to Jamaica to find Ian, forwarned that the Navy Captain wants to capture him.

In Jamaica, Claire runs into Geillis, who wants the three sapphires from the jewel box on Selkie Island so she can hear a prophecy about the “next king of Scotland”. She also bathes in goat’s blood and is just very, very weird. The Seer she hires is Margaret Campbell – a patient of Claire’s in Edinburgh when she was with Jamie (and he was a printer). The new governor of Jamaica is John Grey – friend to Jamie. Yes, all this dovetails the season nicely.

I’m not going to spoil the last two episodes, because the series’ does a really good job of bringing together these various characters from various times in Jamie’s and Claire’s lives. They do find, rescue, and escape with Ian in the same boat they took to Jamaica, but that boat is hit by a hurricane – still Claire and Jamie survive, and it’s a set-up for the next season.

Outlander is beautifully filmed and has excellent acting, especially the leads. This season paints a wide canvas of locations: 1960s Boston, Edinburgh in 1766, 18th-century sailing vessels, including a British Man’o’War, and 18th century Jamaica and nearby islands. The season is a bit timey-whimy, and plays with the ideas of predestination versus free will. On the other hand, Claire and Jamie are soul mates, destined for each other, and whatever the obstacles in their path they always overcome them to be together. It’s a beautiful, enjoyable and lovely show. Highly recommended.

Read my Review of Outlander Season 1 Volume 1.

Read my Review of Outlander Season 1 Volume 2.

Read my Review of Outlander Season 2.

Book Review – Death of a Gossip

  • Title: Death of a Gossip
  • Author: M.C. Beaton
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 12/06/2017

I picked up this paperback, which turns out to be the first Hamish Macbeth mystery, quite some time ago, and finally got around to reading it. I liked the Hamish Macbeth mystery television series, which aired on BBC America quite some time ago, and which I have on DVD, so I thought I would like the mystery series, but really… well, there are a lot of issues with this book.

The story concerns a couple in the tiny village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands who run a “fishing school”. That is, every week during the Summer a small group of tourists stays at the local one and only hotel, and the couple teach them fly fishing. This year’s group, though, includes Lady Jane Winters – a horrible woman who insults everyone, is outright mean, and goes out of her way to hurt people. She even threatens to expose everyone’s secrets and “dirty laundry”. It should come to no surprise when she’s murdered.

However, it literally takes nearly 100 pages before she is murdered. So for the first 100 pages of the book, rather than following a typical cozy mystery format, we are “treated” to a treatise on more than I ever wanted to know about fly fishing, plus some characterization of the tourists in the fishing school, and a few characters who I would suppose are regulars in the series, including Constable Hamish Macbeth. You’d think this would be “background” and technically it is – but it’s also annoying. I wanted the book to get to the point, and I found the frankly sexist portrayals of the women in the group to be pretty awful. Lady Jane, the one person who’s background should be filled in, is a blank slate – other than manipulating the reader to really hate her. Then there’s a young girl, a secretary from a big accounting firm in London, who has a crush on her boss, falls in love with a young aristocratic man, lets him talk her in to sleeping with him – and believes all along that he will marry her. Of course, she’s dead wrong – and he runs off with Daphne – the brainless airhead bottle blonde that he accompanied to the hotel. The reader knows the whole affair is doomed, and the secretary comes off as incredible naive and even dumb. Not to mention that the secret in her closet is: she had been through the exact same thing before. Everyone else’s secrets are similarly silly, especially once Hamish gets to pull the “gather everyone in one room to solve the case” scene.

Once Lady Jane is murdered, the DI from the nearby city shows up, takes over the case, and throws his weight around. This DI is a brute – he bullies everyone, suspects, tourists, locals, and Macbeth. He’s also apparently dumb as a post because he can’t find a single real clue.

Hamish does some investigating as well, on the sly, as the DI has forbidden him to get involved. In the end he gathers everyone in the hotel parlor, reveals all the secrets everyone has kept (turns out Lady Jane was a gossip columnist for a London tabloid), and tries to needle someone – anyone – into admitting they killed Lady Jane. The killer turns out to be a sociopath who essentially kills Lady Jane for looking at her wrong.

Yep.

Needless to say – this makes no sense. It’s like the author gave up and pulled a name out of a hat to reveal as the killer. It’s almost like a parody of the “fair shot” mysteries of the 1930s, where the author included all the clues so the reader had a fair shot of discovering who the murderer was before or at the same time as the detective. Macbeth also later admits he was “guessing” about the identity of the murderer (though he may have been lying at the time) and refuses to take credit, allowing the world’s dumbest DI to take the credit for solving the case. Besides the horrible portrayal of women in the book – the native Scottish Highlanders, especially Macbeth, are portrayed as lazy and not too swift. Macbeth, however, and this was true in the television series at least, is like a blonde woman doing a “fluffy bunny” act – he’s pretending to be slow, so that people will under-estimate him. He also, again, definitely in the television series – but never mentioned in the book, has no desire to be promoted. He loves Lochdudh, his dog, the Highlands, and his life, and promotion would mean relocating to a big city. In this book, he does seem to be pretending to be slow, but his motivations for doing so are completely ignored. No mention is ever made of way he tends to act like a total idiot.

The point-of-view of the book is omniscient, with considerable time spent getting in to the heads of the various characters staying at the hotel, especially the secretary. It would have been better if the story was actually told from Macbeth’s point of view. At least that would have made the story more like a traditional mystery (in either third person or first person).

Finally, the book itself is only 205 pages. The rest is made up of advertisements and sample chapters. One sample chapter is barely acceptable in a paperback book, but three (roughly 80 pages)? That is highway robbery – another reason this book gets a low rating. Although I can honestly recommend the television series, Hamish Macbeth starring Robert Carlyle (The Full MontyOnce Upon a Time) as the titular character, I cannot recommend this book. It’s the first in a long series, so the series itself may improve later, but overall – Death of a Gossip was full of holes and annoying stereotypes.

Outlander Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Outlander
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  5
  • Network:  Starz/BBC
  • Cast:  Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Duncan Lacroix, Tobias Menzies, Romann Berrux, Andrew Gower
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

I enjoyed Season 2 of Outlander even more than Season 1. The first episode actually takes place in 1948, with Claire returning to Frank in her present. Frank proves to be a very understanding and loving man, even vowing to care for Claire’s yet to be born child as his own. Thus the rest of the season is a flashback. Episode two opens this flashback in 18th Century France. Claire and Jamie go to see his cousin – noting that “I seem to remember you have a head for figures,” the cousin heads off on a wine-buying trip, leaving Jamie in charge of his wine shop, as well as giving he and Claire the run of his household. Thus the two have their needs met, and are placed to quickly to move in circles of the French court. Claire, determined to prevent the disaster of Culloden, talks Jamie into sabotaging Bonnie Prince Charlie’s attempts at raising money (later in the season this seems to suggest Claire and Jamie may have caused the disaster they are desperate to prevent). Jamie spends his days running the wine shop and his nights hanging out with Prince Charles and the Jacobite supporters in a brothel. Claire, meanwhile, makes friends in the aristocracy, including Louise and her ward, Mary. Claire, however, being a practical and modern woman, is bored. She has nothing to do, not even housework as the servants in her household do everything for her. Claire ends up working as a nurse at a charity hospital run by nuns, and befriending a local apothecary. This first half of the season is brilliant, the clothes, and the opulence of the French court are beautifully rendered, and Claire gets a beautiful wardrobe. Jamie is no slouch in the clothes department, as he manages to make 18th Century men’s fashion look good. Though, fortunately, he never dons a powdered wig – even in the most formal circumstances. Though some of their plans succeed, Claire and Jamie also make enemies in France. In the end, a friend gets the price removed from Jamie’s head and he and Claire return to Scotland (in part because they are no longer welcome in France – Jamie is arrested for dueling with Jack Randall; Claire is, yet again, accused of being a witch; and Claire also has a miscarriage and her first child with Jamie is stillborn.)

In Scotland, Claire and Jamie, now in much more practical, but still gorgeous clothes, travel first to Lollybroach to visit with the Murrays. They then travel to the castle of Clan MacKenzie to try to rouse as many troops as possible for the Jacobite rebellion. Yes, after half a season of Claire and Jamie trying to crush the rebellion by diverting it’s finances – the plan now is to see that the Scots win. Sigh. But the story draws you in, despite the shadow of disaster that hangs over the entire situation. By the end of the season, Claire reveals she is, once again, pregnant. Enjoyable is not the best word to describe the second half of the season – the “fish out of water” humor of part one is gone. However, it is very good, and addictive. Several characters from the first season return, played by the same actors. The scenery is gorgeous and wild. The costumes are really good, and authentic-looking. And it’s the middle of a war – there’s dirt, blood, mud, and death. But remember how the season started? Yeah, even more than part 1, we feel the inevitable coming – Culloden and Claire’s return to 1948.

The last episode of the season, takes a time jump forward for Claire. It’s now 1968, and she and her daughter, Brianna, visit Scotland for the funeral of Rev. Wakefield. Claire’s daughter begins to fall for the grown-up, Roger. We find out Frank is dead. Claire is now a surgeon. Brianna is an angry girl, having recently lost her father. She discovers that Claire went missing for three years – and that during that time she had an affair with her real (biological) father. Claire tries to explain the truth, but no one believes her. By chance, Brianna sees a lecture by a Scottish nationalist. This nationalist turns out to be Geillis, the “witch” burned at the stake in season 1, but not before revealing she’s from 1968. Claire finds her notebooks, and discovers she’s been taking “courses” at the local university. Unlike Claire who accidentally traveled through the stones; Geillis is obsessed – with Scottish nationalism, with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the rebellion, and with learning what she needs to know to live in 18th century Scotland. However, she’s also extremely dedicated to her cause, and a bit mistaken in her beliefs as to how the stones work. The season ends with Claire, Brianna, and Roger seeing Geillis disappear through the stones, and Claire learning that Jamie survived the rebellion. And thus we will have a Season 3.

Outlander is a gorgeous show. The costumes are beautiful. The settings are beautiful. The characters and their motivations are clear and make sense. What Claire and Jamie do, even when they are swept up in events beyond their control, makes sense. The story is from Claire’s point of view, though we see Jamie on his own dealing with Prince Charles in France, and the Scottish generals and Clan leaders in Scotland (rather than disappearing and reporting back to Claire). The acting is always top notch. I enjoyed Season 2 very much and I highly, highly recommend it.

Read my Review of Outlander Season 1 Volume 1.

Read my Review of Outlander Season 1 Volume 2.

Outlander Season 1 Vol. 2 Review (Spoilers)

  • Series Title: Outlander
  • Season: 1 Vol 2.
  • Episodes:  8
  • Discs:  2
  • Network:  Starz/BBC
  • Cast:  Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies, Bill Paterson, Graham McTavish, Douglas Henshall, Laura Donnelly
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

This second DVD set for Outlander picks-up where the first set cliff-hanger left off. Jamie manages to rescue Claire from the clutches of Black Jack Randall. They return to the MacKenzie’s castle but all is not well. The MacKenzie discovers that Dougal has been raising money for a rebellion against the English king and in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause. The MacKenzie is not happy about it. Dougal is banished, and Jamie’s ordered to see to it that Dougal leaves MacKenzie lands. Jaime warns Claire to stay out of trouble – and to stay away from Geillis, the local healer and Dougal’s secret mistress. Claire, however, is tricked to visit Geillis and the two are accused of witchcraft. Ned Gowen attempts to legally get Geillis and Claire free, but the trial turns against them. Claire learns that Geillis is also a time-traveler – from 1968. As Claire is from 1945 or ’46 – Geillis is from her future. Ned urges Claire to turn on Geillis but she refuses. Jaime arrives to rescue Claire, and Geillis sacrifices herself so the two can leave. Knowing that they cannot return to the MacKenzie clan castle, Jaime and Claire head to Lallybrook – the Fraser clan castle. Jamie finds his sister, Jenny, married and pregnant with her second child. Everything is going fine at the Fraser castle when the Watch arrives. Even with the brigands in the castle, things seem fine, until Jamie is forced into a position to agree to help with their raid. The raid is a trap – Jamie is captured by the British, and most of the gang are killed. First Claire and Jenny try to find Jamie, then Jenny returns to her castle and her new-born baby daughter, and Claire works with the MacKenzies to rescue her husband. Although they save him from being hanged, it isn’t before Jack Randall finds him first and tortures him. Once Jamie begins to recover from his ordeal, he and Claire head to France on a ship.

Although disc one of this set was a bit slow, I flew through disc two. I sat down to watch one episode this morning – and ended up finishing the entire disc (between a few short breaks for meals and such). “Wentworth Prison” and “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” the last two episodes of the set, are intense and definitely R-rated. Captain Black Jack Randall not only tortures Jamie physically – but mentally, not simply raping him, but using his power to get Jamie to submit to sex that isn’t exactly forced – though it is, because Jamie is a prisoner, and his submission to everything Jack wants is the price for Claire’s safety and freedom. Jack expertly moves from harming Jamie to caring for him, but it isn’t a surprise that a bit of Stockholm Syndrome sets in. (As Claire’s from the mid-1940s I’m not sure she would know the term. She seems confused by her husband’s suicidal depression even after he’s rescued and she cares for his worst physical injuries.) Claire is determined to rescue her husband from his melancholy, however, and her determination eventually wins the day.

Outlander is a series where the women, though few and far between (other than Claire who’s the pov character) are very strong. Jenny Fraser Murray is extremely strong – not only strong-willed in dealing with her brother and her husband but running the Fraser estate, and even riding off with Claire to find Jamie within days of giving birth. Jenny’s an admirable character – and she’s a realistic look at how women needed to be strong in such hard times as 1700s Scotland. Geillis is also strong, knowing she’s going to die anyway, she sacrifices herself so Claire can escape. Geillis chooses her own fate, knowing she has no way out. By her sacrifice, Claire is allowed to escape with Jamie. And Claire, now fully in love with Jamie, purposely chooses to be with him, when he takes her to the standing stones. Claire is also a bit more free with her story, telling Jamie who she is and more importantly when she’s from. Jamie, in turn, tells his sister that Claire might “tell her things, things that seem impossible – listen to her”. Claire discovers this when she tells Jenny to “Plant potatoes, sell off excess land for gold, and that famine is coming.” Claire even tells her entire story to a Franciscan brother. And she uses her reputation as a witch to threaten Black Jack Randall – cursing him and telling him the date of his death. These slips Claire makes seem very dangerous – we’ll see if they catch up with her.

Overall, Outlander is an excellent show. It’s beautifully shot, with excellent music, and a fine cast (many familiar Scottish actors make appearances such as Bill Paterson and Douglas Henshall.) I will keep an eye out for future seasons on DVD. I don’t get Starz on my satellite system, so I can’t watch the show as it airs – but I do intend to buy season 2 whenever it becomes available.

Read my review of Outlander Season 1 Volume 1.