When I heard that Doug Johnstone had signed with Orenda Books I was a little happy bunny! Another outstanding Scottish author on #TeamOrenda! What’s not to like! Then when I seen the preview of the cover for his newest novel, Fault Lines, then I was positively drooling! So it was a no-brainer when Anne over at randomthingsthroughmyletterbox asked me to take part in the BlogTour!
Thanks to Orenda and the author for the ARC to review.
Before I share my thoughts, here’s what the official blurb says:
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…
My first thought when faced with writing a review of “Fault Lines” was “How can I do this? What can I say about this book that will make others understand the depth of feeling that it invoked?” The blurb provides everything that you need to know about the plot. But let me say just this, “Fault Lines” is way more than a murder mystery, it is an exploration of relationships, love death, guilt and all the other emotions that bind us and tear us apart from each other. You know when you read a book and you somehow connect with it in a way that consumes you? You feel the emotions of the characters, you feel like you are in the pages of the book, you feel like you are the characters? That’s exactly what Doug Johnstone did to me as a reader with this novel. I was completely sucked into the intensity of the world he created.
I recently seen Doug Johnstone at an Aye Write event talking about the sense of place in a novel. He said if a writer can make the reader believe in a place, if they can make the reader see the place then the writer can make the reader believe anything! How true this was of “Fault Lines“. Within a couple of chapters I was ready to believe that Scotland had now got its own volcanic island, “The Inch” in the Firth of Forth and that the country was subject to earthquakes and tremors. This is an author, who does possess that tremendous talent for taking the reader and placing them firmly at the centre of the storyline!
I don’t know much about geology and the science stuff but Doug Johnstone made the formation of the island come alive as described the magma from the eruption instantly cooling from 1200 degrees as it hit water, how our planet can take on new forms and shapes was so vivid I could see it in front of my eyes. I’m finding it difficult to believe that the island he describes does not exist, he totally made it come alive!
Fault Lines provided a narrative which made each character, each paragraph, each word count, as they burrowed their way into my brain creating a steady loop of images as I read. It was hard not to feel the emotion as I read, I felt fear, grief, melancholy, adventure and joy. Dying and death feature highly in this novel and such it is a dark read, not without its humour though. Our relationship with death and guilt is beautifully explored as Surtsey deals not only with the death of her lover but also her mother’s impending death and the feelings of guilt she has about both.
I connected immediately with Surtsey, although she is surrounded by others in the book, it almost felt like she and The Inch were the two main characters in the book. I found myself inside of her head and I’m not going to lie, there was one point, when I was sitting in Costa and a tsunami of tears threatened to overcome me as I took on every emotion she was going through. And although The Inch does not exist, I could actually see it in my mind, the volcano simmering away and I could feel the earth shake as the tremors made themselves felt.
Please don’t think Fault Lines is a book heavily laced with science, it isn’t! What it is, is a book that takes the reader out of their comfort zone and places them in a reality that has changed from what they know to be true. It places the reader firmly at the heart of Surtsey’s relationship, not only with the island but also with those whom she is close to. It pokes and prods at your brain, it gets under your skin and it provides all those twists and turns you are looking for in a psychological thriller/murder mystery. But once again Doug Johnstone goes way beyond just “writing a story” he provides you with an experience like no other, he takes you by the hand and dumps you right in the midst of it all. So just buckle up folks and enjoy the ride!
You can purchase Fault Lines from:
Don’t forget to check out what the other bloggers are saying
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. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned for film and television.
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 both 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 magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.