Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez in the latest season of Shetland. This season tackles some big issues.
Make a date with your TV set for the latest season of Shetland
. The award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves’s best-selling detective series started on ITV Choice (channel 123) on Tuesday night.

This new and exciting series stars Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez, but unlike Seasons 1 and 2, where the storyline consisted of three two-part mysteries, the new season is one continuous gripping murder mystery of six episodes to solve.

This season, family links and old wounds are exposed in the complex plot.

In an interesting twist, Thomas Malone, played by Stephen Walters, returns to Shetland after serving 23 years in jail for the murder of teenager Lizzie Kilmuir, a crime he swears he didn’t commit.

While most of the islanders are convinced of Malone’s guilt, the appeal and his release have thrown up the possibility that someone else could be responsible for the murder.

Henshall said this season tackles some really big subjects.

“There are some quite subtle questions this series asks, like ‘what does a good person sound like? What does a bad person look like?’. It’s not always obvious, as our prejudices get in the way. So whether you think you’re qualified to know who is a good person and who is a bad person that’s been interesting to explore.”

He said the show has gripped viewers not only because of its intriguing storylines, but because of its characters and setting.

“I think people love the series because of its characters and the place it’s set in. Not only because it’s beautiful but because it’s like another character in the show. I think people are drawn to the place because they imagine themselves there.

“But I have to give credit to the writers and producers because they are the prime reason. And the books, they’re incredibly popular. All those ingredients together work very well for us,” said Henshall.

Henshall describes his character, Perez, as slightly more disillusioned than when viewers were first introduced to him.

“Shetland’s a lot more violent than he thought it was going to be - people seem to get murdered there a lot. And I think he’s finding being without his wife a lot harder, and the idea he is still alone 10 years after it happened is as much of a surprise to him as everyone else.

“Bringing up a young daughter has been very difficult and reminds him of the loss he’s had and how he can’t be with anyone that’s not good for her.”

Asked if he related to Perez, Henshall said very much so: “When I read the script at first, the things that sprang at me were that he seemed to be quite kind, empathetic and wanted to find the best in people. Also his relationship towards the women in his life, such as Tosh - he seems to genuinely like women, which I thought was quite unusual in a police show.

“All of those things drew me in and similarly I try to put my own self in there as well. I felt Perez was far removed from a typical police television character,” said Henshall.

Asked if Perez gets sympathetic towards Malone upon his release, Henshall said that his character, Perez, feels quite stretched by it.

“When you are trying all of the ways in which you usually relate to people and none seem to be working, it makes it harder for Perez to build a relationship with Thomas when he is trying to find and prove his innocence.

“He has to try to prove it for himself and for everyone else. When the person you are trying to build a relationship with isn’t interested in helping you, or even helping themselves, then it gets very complicated - as you’ll see in this series,” he said.

* Catch Shetland at 8pm every Tuesday on ITV Choice (DStv Channel 123), with repeats throughout the week.