Crash Land by Doug Johnstone

Book Review by Jonny Sweet | 04 Nov 2016
Book title: Crash Land
Author: Doug Johnstone

Finn Sullivan, an idealistic and headstrong university student, has his life turned on its head after showing his chivalrous side in the defence of a stranger’s honour. Finn becomes the inadvertent cause of an aeroplane disaster – the novel's title not only describes its main event but also its after-effects on his life and those around him.

Orkney might seem like an incongruous setting for a crime thriller, yet the barren claustrophobia of the island only adds to the tension and atmosphere. But although the bodies do stack up fairly quickly, the novel almost escapes the typical ambience of the genre, feeling more like a naïve love story for the most part. Less a whodunit than a why-the-hell-are-you-still-doing-it, the reader might feel like smacking their head against a brick wall at the frustrating Finn, who’s not an unreliable narrator but occasionally an infuriating one. You are, at times, as likely to puzzle at the author’s intentions as to second guess them.

That’s not to say that the characters don’t ring true, however. The innocence of inexperience is captured perfectly in Finn, while the doting grandmother, ill-used girlfriend and femme fatale stereotypes are all fleshed out fully and believably. The ever popular crime novelist Doug Johnstone offers another page-turner to keep you gripped until its denouement.

Out now, published by Faber & Faber, RRP £12.99