Shetland: Burns Night Cocktail Recipe

Year Released: 2013-2017

Starring: Douglas Henshall, Alison O’Donnell, Steven Robertson 

(approx.1 hour per episode)

Genre: Mystery

“We've got the sky, and the sea, and razorbills, and kittiwakes. What more d'you want?”  Jimmy Perez to his teenage daughter

Netflix’s Shetland has it all.  The stark beauty of the grand cliffs looming over the plunging North Sea, a lilting Scottish brogue that washes over you in soft waves, and a compelling lead who is a great detective and overall lovely man, too.  No ponies yet, but we can hope.

Between Netflix and Amazon Prime, Different Drummer is finding it less and less compelling to venture out to the overpriced metroplex for yet another warmed over sequel or the latest installment of comic book inspired fan fiction.

And for this mystery aficionada, no one does it better than the Brits.  Their fare ranges from the bleak and gritty Hinterland with its desolate Welsh shores and even more desolate detective, to the post card pretty Midsomer Murders with its beautiful countryside as pristine as Miss Marple’s St. Mary’s Mead with its thatch-roofed cottages and gardens to die for.

And if it’s cheering up you need,  just tune into Death in Paradise, where the sandy shores of the Caribbean and its witty people will put a smile on your face in spite of the steady stream of corpses intruding on the sunshine.

One of the best parts of Shetland is Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) – stoic, taciturn, and yet with a face that expresses the deep feelings  and empathy he tries to hide. Henshall is from Glasgow, so his accent is authentic, and one of the treats of watching this series is listening to its musical tones. 

Not quite so with Detective Sergeant Alison “Tosh” McIntosh (Alison O”Donnell), whose brogue is so thick we seem to miss about 20 percent of what she says.  But she is terrific in her role and seems to be growing both as a detective and as an actress. In the early pilot, when she is called in to photograph a dead body, Tosh is still recovering from a hangover.  Needless to say, she gets sick at the scene, and the actress tells us she still has to live down her vomiting scene with her family members. But she takes on a special maturity in the six part series of season 3.

DC (Detective Constable) Sandy Wilson is played by Shetland native Steven Robertson.  In the series he plays a hometown boy, too, and sometimes has trouble when his relatives are either victims or the suspects.  He plays a self- described ordinary person, which Robertson says is harder to play than the “succession of killers and creeps he has played so deliciously” in earlier features.

The setting itself is almost a character, too.  Natural stone houses hug the stark shoreline, strong, sturdy, and impenetrable, almost like the people who live there.  The archipelago of islands is technically part of Scotland, although it is over 300 miles north, almost parallel with Greenland.  Just over 23.00 people live there, with Fair Isle only hosting 65 permanent residents.  No wonder the local GP has to make do as the medical examiner.  This certainly is no CSI Miami; high tech is a desktop computer and a cell phone, which may or may not get a good signal.  And that makes our detectives work a little harder.  They may have to climb a hilltop to get a phone signal, or use their hunches on the exact cause of death while they wait the lab results from Glasgow.  

The plots seem to spring naturally from the setting and people.  We don’t have the parade of cliched eccentrics that often wonder into Midsomer Murders.  These people seems real, and the detection is solid and logical, done with the careful determination of a seafaring people. 

Yes, there are eccentrics, but they resonate with authenticity.  The local recluse, Magnus Bain, scares everyone, but he is no cardboard villain, and maybe not even a villain at all, as the perceptive DI Perez begins to suspect.

Another character specializes in sketching dead animals and actually pays a local to bring him roadkill.  Again, all is not what is seems.  A surly past criminal, defensive and hiding his whereabouts, also shows a softer side.

Neither are some of the seeming innocent what they appear to be.  But the reversals are logical and paced; they do not careen at us helter-skelter as often is the case in shoddy mysteries.

A final element of depth is the tie in to past history.  Often two disparate cases are linked, or a motive or grievance is buried in a secret past.  These mysteries aren’t for the impatient.  Half the fun is getting there, and having DI Perez and crew having to admit minor defeats and frustrations along the way.

Take a virtual trip to this special green isle and immerse yourself in its secrets, past and present. You won't regret it.

–Kathy Borich


Film-Loving Foodie

To find his killer, DI Perez has to find out about a sexual assault that took place 10 years earlier on Burns Night.  Watching the series, I somehow thought it had to do with a ritual bonfire or such, but in actuality it is the yearly celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Burns Night, held in honour of Scotland's most famous poet Robert Burns, is celebrated at the end of January every year – but what is is all about?

The night is a way to remember the life of the 18th century bard and it falls on his birthday – January 25.

The tradition started a few years after the poet's death in 1796, when his friends commemorated his career on the date of his death (July 21) each year.

So began the Burns Supper, and more than two centuries later it is has become a nationwide event with recitals of the poet's works and a haggis dinner.

Haggis is the center of such dinner, but most of us would not be too interested in this dish, a savory pudding containing sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach.

Let’s try something different.  A special Blush Apple Martini concocted just for that occasion.

Blush Apple Martini

  • 1 ½ ounces Caorunn gin

  • 1 ½ ounces pressed apple juice (cloudy)

  • t teaspoon sugar syrup

  • 3 raspberries

  • Garnish: a raspberry

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake hard, fine strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a raspberry.