Author: Doug Johnstone
Performed by Caroline Guthrie
Released: July 2018 by Audible Studios
Category: Murder, Mystery, Thriller, AudioBook, Review
In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, in which a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery. On a clandestine trip to The Inch – the new volcanic island – to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body. Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…
Surtsey Mackenzie, a volcanologist studying for her PhD in an imaginatively recreated Edinburgh, is fascinated by an eruption in the Firth of Forth which resulted in a volcanic island.
Edinburgh has fairly regular seismic activity but The Inch, as the island is known, was formed twenty five years ago when there was a shift in the tectonic plates on the day Surtsey was born.
Surtsey’s mother had also been a volcanologist but now she was dying from cancer in a hospice. Surtsey and her sister, Iona live in the family house with Surtsey’s friend, Halima. The two girls deal with their mother’s situation in different ways, often clash and don’t help themselves by drinking far too much and getting stoned.
Arriving on the island for a clandestine meeting with her married lover and boss, Tom one evening, instead of the promised picnic Surtsey finds his body.
Surtsey reached the edge of the outcrop. Thirty yards below, on the sand of the cove, a dozen gulls and crows were gathered on a single low rock, a blur of squawking activity, pecking at each other. Surtsey watched for a few moments trying to make sense of it. Gradually she realised they weren’t pecking each other, they were pecking at the rock beneath them.
Then she got it.
It wasn’t a rock it was a body, and they were feasting on it.
This is one of those stories where initially none of the characters are particularly likeable. They’re all flawed in some way. I did grow to quite like Surtsey and was sorry for all she was going through with her mother and the lack of support from her sister. Having said that, I can’t imagine how the three of them managed to function at all with the amount of alcohol and hash they went through. Surtsey’s life gets even more complicated following the discovery of Tom’s body. She lies to the police (I really enjoyed their ‘conversations’) about her whereabouts the night of Tom’s death. Someone knows about their relationship and that Surtsey was on the island. She is receiving anonymous threatening texts.
The excellent opening grabbed my attention immediately. Caroline Guthrie’s narration was particularly good, the Scottish accent of course perfect for the story. The descriptions are believable and vivid, even the earthquakes and The Inch, creating an easily imaginable, tangible sense of place.
The very well written narrative simmers slowly as relationships and emotions play out, shocking secrets are revealed and the tension builds into an exciting and suspenseful conclusion. It’s an unusual and quite compelling story, cleverly done. I could almost believe The Inch was real.
About the Author
Doug Johnstone is a writer, musician and journalist based in Edinburgh. His seventh novel, The Jump, was published by Faber & Faber in August 2015. Gone Again (2013) was an Amazon bestseller and Hit & Run (2012) and was an Amazon #1 as well as being selected as a prestigious Fiction Uncovered winner. Smokeheads (2011) was nominated for the Crimefest Last Laugh Award. Before that Doug published two novels with Penguin, Tombstoning (2006) and The Ossians (2008). His work has received praise from the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin, William McIlvanney, Megan Abbott and Christopher Brookmyre.
Doug has a degree in physics, a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism, and worked for four years designing radars. He grew up in Arbroath and lives in Portobello, Edinburgh with his wife and two children.