The Wild Coast by Lin Anderson

The Wild Coast by Lin Anderson was published in 2023. It’s the first book I’ve read by the author, but she has written lots which feature Rhona MacLeod as a forensic scientist.

It begins in Arisaig, an idyllic setting in the North-West Highlands of Scotland, a very remote area. A young woman has driven there in her camper van and it transpires that she has taken the chance to leave her violent partner while he is out of the country. She has the bruises to show for it, but is attempting to cover them up with make-up. Stopping at a small camp site which is mainly used by just a few wild campers she’s reticent about communicating with the few other campers around, so when she disappears overnight nobody even knows what her name was.

But just before that happens a shallow grave has been found in the machar (grassland) on the edge of the camp. It’s the body of a young woman and bizarrely there’s a figure of a stick man alongside her in the grave. There’s also a stick man figure in the campervan, but the grave is around two months old, so it’s not the missing woman from the campervan. Rhona MacLeod is called in to dig up the body in the grave and gather as much forensic evidence as possible.

The setting changes to Glasgow where there are rumours of corrupt police officers sexually assaulting young students and it looks like Rhona’s close colleague McNab is involved – or is he?

Most of the male characters in this book are truly obnoxious and at one point I wondered if it would ever feature any men who weren’t monsters, although if I’m recalling correctly the reader is never actually in the room when women are being physically abused.

As ever I enjoyed the Scottish setting and it was good to have so many mentions of my old stomping ground of Glasgow’s west end. I’ll definitely read more in this series, but I imagine that if you have suffered from abusive and coercive men in the past then you probably won’t want to read this one.


The Voyage of Freydis by Tamara Goranson

The Voyage of Freydis by Tamara Goranson was published in 2021 and it’s a retelling of an Icelandic saga from the beginning of the 11th century, so some parts of the tale were familiar to me.

The story begins in the year 996 AD but quickly the action turns back to the year 996. Freydis Eriksdottir has been married off to Thorvard, the leader of his community. Freydis’s father had paid a large dowry to Thorvard, but it isn’t long before Freydis realises that her husband is a wife abuser, he beats her up and tells everyone that her bruises are the result of her clumsiness. She lives a long way from her family home, but she does manage to get back to her family home when she hears of her father’s death. But after some time Thorvard follows her there and to Freydis’s horror he sweet-talks her mother, it seems that everyone is against Freydis.

Her brother Leif had voyaged to Vinland (Newfoundland) earlier and Freydis escapes to lead an expedition to Vinland, planning to trade there. She’s well warned to be careful of the native ‘skraelings’, but when she encounters them in a snowstorm they save her life.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this book, there’s just so much ‘domestic’ violence in it, it was relentless, and I felt about that just as I feel about historical fiction which has far too many battles for my liking. The Vinland part was the most interesting for me.

The original saga paints Freydis as being evil, and I suppose that the author wanted to rehabilitate her reputation, after all, history is written by the winners. I read this one because I asked for the sequel from NetGalley, before I realised it was a sequel, so I’ll be reading that one anyway at some point in the near future.

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett 20 Books of Summer 2022

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett was first published in 1907. Sir Nigel Anstruthers has travelled to New York from his impoverished estate in England, in the hope that he can bag a young and rich American wife, and he succeeds. Despite being arrogant and charmless, he manages to get Rosalie Vanderpoel to marry him, her father is a multi millionaire, but Rosalie is a quiet, meek young woman, the pretty one of the family, but she doesn’t have much in the way of brains, unlike her much younger sister Bettina. She can see right through Nigel and dislikes him intensely.

Roalie is whisked over to England by Nigel and she’s shocked at the poverty of Nigel’s estate, the place is falling apart. Nigel had expected to have control of Rosalie’s money when he married her, so he’s deeply disappointed when he realises that he doesn’t. Soon he’s abusing her and manipulating her and he even intercepts letters from her family in America, she’s completely isolated from them, they think that she has forgotten about them – and vice versa. Apparently this was something that the author had experienced herself in her second marriage.

This book is also about the differences between American and English society with the Americans tending to be held up as wonderfully ambitious go-getters, and the English mainly being so depressed that they can’t do anything for themselves. Time and time again the reader is hit over the head with the differences between the societies, it all got very wearing for me.

This book really should have been edited down, I found it quite tedious a lot of the time and I did think that it must have originally been published weekly in a magazine with the author being paid by the word, as Dickens was, but it seems that it wasn’t.

Apart from that I just couldn’t believe that very wealthy American parents would just wave goodbye to their beloved eldest daughter and not do anything about the lack of letters from her, for years and years. Thankfully Bettina rides to the rescue.