Cass Lynch is a Shetland native who is in love with the sea. After spending a good portion of her life out on the ocean wave, she has finally returned home to captain the Stormfugl, a viking longship that is being used in the making of a Hollywood film. Early one morning, she arrives at the ship to find her shipmate cum nightwatchman missing and a dead body on the deck. As suspicions fly around, concerning the film and local environmental concerns, the finger of guilt seems to point to Cass herself. So take a wild guess who takes it upon herself to sort things out?
Death On A Longship is the first mystery novel by Marsali Taylor and I’ve been invited to be a stop on a blog tour to promote the book – check out my first ever guest post from the author herself on the process of writing a mystery. But I’ve had some bad experiences with first-time authors – is this one going to buck the trend?
To be honest, things didn’t look bright to start off with. The set-up had a ring of the cozy mystery to me – female protagonist with a specialist hobby and a specific setting. Admittedly, no cat, but her shipmate does have a pet rat. Add that to the fact that the lead police officer shares a surname with another Scottish detective and, to be honest, I was a bit worried after the first few chapters.
There was absolutely no need to be, though. This is one of the most traditionally plotted mysteries that I’ve read in a long while – there is a genuinely multi-layered plot here, with a steady pace of revelation leading to a new problem throughout the book, leading to a well-thought out solution. The overall plot has some clever ideas and, I thought, one particularly smart central idea.
You can add to that an interesting structure to the story as a whole. Part of the opening section is given in flashback, as Cass describes to Detective Inspector Macrae what led up to the murder. The flashback itself is broken up by developments at the scene of the crime and I was really impressed how this section meshed together.
It’s clear that the author loves Shetland – she’s lived there for the last eighteen years – and sailing, and this shows through in the writing. Sailing is one hobby that I can say quite confidently that I’ll never be taking up, but that didn’t stop me enjoying these sections, somewhat to my surprise.
Any niggles? Well, I found the character of Cass’s mother rather… odd, but she seemed to fit into the story well regardless.
Overall, though, this is a well-written, enjoyable story with a proper murder-mystery plot harkening back to the classic style. It’s good to see that there’s another book in the series in the pipeline and I’m already looking forward to it. Highly recommended.
For a chance of winning a copy of this book, do check out my next post.