An adrenaline-charged thrillerfrom the Kindle-bestselling author of Gone Again and Hit and Run.
Doug Johnstone is the author of a number of acclaimed thrillers, including Gone Again, Hit and Run and, most recently,The Jump. He is also a freelance journalist, a songwriter and musician, and has a PhD in nuclear physics. He lives in Edinburgh.
Reviewed by John Teel, Marshall University, Emeritus One of Johnstone's reviewers has referred to his work as "Tartan Noir." Certainly, Crash Land begins with one of the most familiar set-ups that those who, like me, devoured mid-Twentieth Century Film Noir would readily recognize: the male protagonist's fateful meeting with a beautiful but mysterious woman, and the question that arises from it--is she a damsel in distress? A femme fatale? A bit of both? And given the puzzling and dangerous events that ensue, does it matter which of those she is? However, while those movies I grew up with typically took place against an urban backdrop one could easily imagine coming from an Edward Hopper painting, Johnstone's book takes place amid a picturesque but perilous landscape: the island of Orkney, just north of the Scottish mainland. Finn Sullivan is in the bar of the small airport in Orkney, waiting for the fog-delayed flight to Edinburgh, when a woman who introduces herself as "Maddie" joins him in order to get away from some crude men who are trying to hit on her. The two converse while awaiting the flight, though Maddie tells very little about herself except that she is flying to Edinburgh to "get away" (without specifying from what). Later, while they are on the plane and in flight one of the men from the bar imposes himself next to Maddie (while Finn has gone to the restroom) and becomes aggressive in his behavior. He and Finn then get into a fight, causing the co-pilot and the attendant to restrain the two and the pilot to turn back toward Orkney, much to Maddie's frantic protest. Somewhere in all the confusion, the plane crashes, killing seven of the eleven on board and at some point Maddie disappears. All this happens pretty quickly, by the way, so that readers know there will be much more to come. Back in Orkney and under suspicion from the police, Finn begins to learn more about Maddie and why she may have been so determined to get away, and, predictably, he hears from her again, putting him in a dilemma. Can he trust her? Among Orkney's features is "The Tomb of the Eagles," a tourist attraction where Finn's grandmother (whom he had been visiting) occasionally works as a tour guide. There, one may find old bones, remains of the ancient peoples who lived and died there in isolation from the rest of the world. If not your typical Noir setting, it works well for the purpose, creating a sort of eerie atmosphere. And the comparison to old-time Film Noir only goes so far. The writing in this novel is powerful and thoughtful, with many passages that lend themselves to re-reading for their well-phrased profundity, and it goes into a psychological and emotional depth that would have been beyond the capacity of the cinema at that time to convey. Further, the book has an exciting climax and a thought-provoking conclusion. You may certainly count Doug Johnstone as one of Scotland's major writers of suspense thrillers. I have never used the system of rating films by the "five-star" system (too much like grading papers, which I gladly retired from), but if I did, I would likely decide to accord all five stars to Crash Land.