Sunday 3 June 2018

Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone @doug_johnstone #FaultLines @OrendaBooks

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...

Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 22 May 2018, my thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

The Inch, a volcanic island just off the coast of Edinburgh, and Surtsey McKenzie were born on the same day. As Surtsey's mother gave birth,  a tectonic fault opened up and a volcano erupted, leaving behind The Inch.

For Surtsey, the Inch has always been a magical place. Following in the footsteps of her own mother, she became a volcanologist and the Inch is the place that she has honed her studies. Just like the Inch, Surtsey's life has been full of shifts and changes. Always unpredictable, they both have an air of mystery, and defiance that defines them.

The novel opens as Surtsey lands on the Inch to meet her lover. Although it's something of a cliche, and Surtsey is well aware of that, her relationship with Tom, her professor on the PhD course at Edinburgh University is an exciting secret. Although she's betraying her boyfriend Brendon and Tom's wife Alice is in the dark, for Surtsey, this is fun and as far as she is concerned, nobody will get hurt.

But, Tom is dead. Laying on the beach with gulls pecking at his face. There's no sign of his boat moored nearby, and just his mobile phone laying beside him. Surtsey panics, takes the phone and rows back to the mainland. However when a text arrives on Tom's secret phone; the one that he used only to communicate with Surtsey, and it says 'I know you where there', it becomes clear to Surtsey that someone, somewhere has been watching her, and knows exactly what she's been doing.

So, that's the blurb, more or less, and what follows is an explosive, well structured and absolutely compelling story. Doug Johnstone's writing is both beautiful and searingly honest. Surtsey is a girl who, as an adult I guess I should dislike, but she creeps her way into the heart of the reader. She makes some dreadful decisions, she drinks like a fish and smokes far too much hash, but there's a vulnerability about her that is so endearing, and I had her back, all the way through.

This is not just a crime story, Tom's death, and that of another character later on, are a mystery to be solved. However, it's the intricate and detailed look at the nature of family relationships and the ever present tremors and aftershocks that ripple out from the Inch and echo what is happening in Surtsey's life that make Fault Lines so brilliant.

Just over 200 pages, but so beguiling, so original and so very gripping. Not a single word is wasted, it is wonderfully atmospheric, often unsettling and always thought provoking. The story and its characters have lingered in my head constantly since I turned the final page.  Absolutely exceptional and one of the best books of 2018 so far.

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.

In September 2014 Doug took up the position of Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Doug was writer in residence at the University of Strathclyde 2010-2012 and before that worked as a lecturer in creative writing there. He’s had short stories appear in various publications and anthologies, and since 1999 he has worked as a freelance arts journalist, primarily covering music and literature. Doug is currently also working on a number of screenplays for film and television. He is also a mentor and manuscript assessor for The Literary Consultancy.

Doug is one of the co-founders of the Scotland Writers Football Club, for whom he also puts in a shift in midfield. He is also a singer, musician and songwriter in several bands, including Northern Alliance, who have released four albums to critical acclaim, as well as recording an album as a fictional band called The Ossians. Doug has also released two solo EPs, Keep it Afloat and I Did It Deliberately.

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.

For more info:

Twitter @doug_johnstone

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