About The Book
In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, where 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 new volcanic island The Inch, to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery, a secret.
Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she’ll be exposed, Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…
Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone tells the story of Surtsey, a volcanologist who lives in a reimagined Edinburgh where the city is situated on a major fault line. 25 years previously, as Surtsey’s mother rushed to hospital about to give birth to her, a volcanic island, the Inch, was “spewed from the bowels of the earth” into the Firth of Forth . It is here that Surtsey visits in the opening pages of the novel to meet with her boss and married lover, Tom. Her evening’s plans are cast aside when rather than the illicit and thrilling meeting she was envisaging, she finds his body. She isn’t supposed to be there so rather than alerting the authorities she leaves, taking the pay as you go phone he used to communicate with her. What happens next is a slow burn of suspense where Surtsey is trapped between action and inaction and finds herself embroiled in the games of somebody who not only knows her’s and Tom’s secret but also knows she was on the Inch the night he died.
The protagonist, Surtsey, is a flawed woman who has made bad decisions in life, yet I really liked her. When we meet her she is having a difficult time, her mother is gravely ill and rather than this seismic event drawing them together, she and her younger sister Iona are drifting further apart. Throw in a dead lover and mysterious text messages threatening to reveal her secret and she is a woman on the edge. This is a perfect storm of events that could fell a lesser woman but she is strong and resilient and she faces the adversity head on. Doug Johnstone has done a wonderful job in writing Surtsey, I found her utterly believable and I was fully on her side. There are moments in the book where she is faced with misogynistic attitudes and contempt which she reacts to with utter fearlessness which made me do a little cheer in support of her.
At its heart though, Fault Lines is a whodunnit. Somebody killed Tom and is blackmailing Surtsey. The book takes us through suspenseful and jaw-dropping moments which twist and turn the streets of Edinburgh as Surtsey tries to discover who is blackmailing her and who has killed Tom. I had no idea who the culprit was (always a good thing in a murder mystery) but the killer, when revealed wasn’t a left-field surprise. Excellent plotting and tight prose gave this book real readability and let me put my Miss Marple hat on which is always appreciated.
This is a compelling novel with a unusal premise. I loved the setting of Edinburgh as it is one of my favourite cities, and the addition of the enigma that is the Inch really sealed things for me. The Inch is a character in its own right, described as a “dark presence against the violet of the sky” and how “the black cliffs on the eastern side of the Inch were monolithic and ominous…the spreads of volcanic rock and lava were a moonscape.” This ominous island overseeing misdeeds and deception was a powerful creation whose magnetic pull kept me turning the pages.
About The Author
Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had eight novels published, most recently Crash Land. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and been Writer in Residence at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, reviews books for the Big Issue, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.
I am thrilled to be one of today’s stops for the Blog Tour for Fault Lines written by Doug Johnstone, many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things for inviting me onto the Tour.