I had a wonderful time in Shetland when I visited it last year for Shetland Noir and I’ve had a hankering ever since to visit Orkney. It’ll probably be a while before I get the chance but, in the meantime, I’ve visited the archipelago in the latest book by Doug Johnstone.
Crash Land opens at Kirkwall Airport where Finn Sullivan is waiting for a plane to get out of Orkney and home for Christmas. He helps a woman escape the unwanted attention of a group of men but when they board a flight to Edinburgh trouble kicks off which ends in the plane crash landing. The woman, Maddie Pierce, disappears and, as one of the few survivors, Finn is left to both answer the police’s questions and help Maddie.
As I’d expect from Johnstone’s books, Crash Land is a taut, well-written thriller with an interesting premise. There are elements, however, that elevate it about the average crime novel. Finn Sullivan is young, only twenty-one and it make for an interesting dynamic that he is in thrall to a woman ten years older than himself. He makes jewellery for a living which contrasts well with his ability to roll up his sleeves and get involved in a fight when needed. There’s a sense of youthful bullishness about him and they way he is willing to get involved in Addie’s plight.
Orkney is well depicted, especially the small-windswept airport as is the Tomb of the Eagles which makes for an atmospheric backdrop to the story. The asides about Orkney culture and its attitude to mainland Scotland were fascinating and just what an armchair reader needs to transport you to the island. Crash Land is a perfect length – the story is told in 250 pages and, for me, it was a great autumn read.