Imagine a very different Edinburgh, one where constant earthquakes, tremors and aftershocks are a regular part of life. This is the setting for Fault Lines which opens with Surtsey setting foot on Inch, a small island in the Firth of Forth which was formed after a volcanic eruption 25 years earlier. Although Surtsey has always felt an affinity with Inch, having been born on the day it was formed, she is not there to go sightseeing, Surtsey is there to meet her boss, PhD supervisor and lover Tom. When Tom is found dead on the shoreline Surtsey panics, quickly grabs Tom’s phone and flees Inch, leaving him to a grisly fate. With every decision there is always a consequence and Surtsey soon finds that she’s not very good at making the right decisions.
After reading Jack’s Return Home Fault Lines was not only a welcome relief, it was also a very enjoyable read and one which made me wish I’d discovered Doug Johnstone many years previously. Surtsey is an excellent lead character and one which, as she often makes angry and rash decisions, you struggle to maintain sympathy with. Some of the other characters, notably friend and fellow student Halima, Surtsey’s sister Iona who she has a fiery relationship with, their terminally ill mother Louise and Donna, who’s a nurse at the hospice where Louise resides, are equally good. For me as a reader it was a joy to read a novel where almost all of the main characters were female and although each of them had their own faults, some of them deeply flawed, they were never caricatured.
Summer is well on the way and with many of the current crop of Australian novels being set in our drought ridden country towns the setting of Fault Lines in the cool waters of the Firth of Forth is not only a pleasant cool change, it’s also a darn good read. Highly recommended.