A little lie … a seismic secret … and the cracks are beginning to show… 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…
My Musings :
The first thought I had when I read the blurb was 'Ooo a murder mystery'. And the very next thought was how apt the cover and the title are. The cover, though simple, draws the eye to the woman and the implied secrets behind her serious look. The title perfectly sums up the life of Sur after finding her boss dead on the Inch. Small cracks keep appearing in her life and they slowly grow into the biggest chasm which leads to the ultimate end. So no wonder I was really tempted to read the book.
This is the first book of the author's I have read. So I was a tiny bit anxious, wondering about his writing style. I was surprised to find a map at the start. It was easy to imagine the layout of the Inch with its help. The beginning of the book itself sealed my impression with the aforementioned map and the corresponding mysterious death of Tom - boss and lover to Sur, the protagonist of the book.
I was impressed with the author's crisp writing and the way he described the scenes so as to form images easily in the reader's mind. I especially enjoyed reading about the geology based narration. Though I am not familiar with it, it was easy enough to become engrossed in it. I loved the book being based in an alternative Edinburgh, another surprise which made a favourable impression on me.
I loved every moment the author spent talking about the Inch and the way "she" was increasingly becoming agitated. That's how it felt to me as the story progressed. I felt that it was corresponding to the tense situations in Sur's life. The way she found her dead lover, finding his phone and then hiding the fact from everyone - all contributed to the tense atmosphere and added to the volatility of the story. At times I thought that the Inch was the protagonist instead of Sur. That's how interconnected both were.
Though the story started with the literal bang of a death, I felt it slowed down for a while with the story the author weaved around Sur, Iona and their mother. Yes, it was necessary to delve into the personal details but it overwhelmed the suspense aspect of the book. The messages from the suspected culprit to Sur were were sparse at the start and they sped up towards the end. That felt hurried to me.
But towards the last quarter, the story really went into high gear and the way Sur got into trouble with the police had me anticipating the coming up scenes. At that point, I was suspicious of a particular person and that's who ended up being the killer. It was a bit easy to figure out who but I never understood the reason behind the killer's actions. There didn't seem any solid reason for it. It left me baffled even after the book ended.
So did I enjoy the book? Definitely yes! The slow to gear up story had its moments of gripping scenes which kept me immersed in Sur and the Inch simultaneously culminating into a heart jolting finale.
I received a copy voluntarily for the blog tour through Random Things Tours.
My one line review : A slow to gear up mystery with geology descriptions in tandem with the intense and explosive events.
My rating : 4/5
My reread factor : 3/5
Meet 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.