Author of the Month

Name: Lin Anderson

First Novel: Driftnet

Most Recent Book: Follow the Dead

'...when you start on this book, turn off the phone, get a flask of coffee and wear warm clothes! '

It is Hogmanay and Rhona MacLeod is on a short holiday near the Cairngorm Mountains. Rhona gets an offer of coming on a rescue mission with the local Mountain Rescue Team, which she accepts with excitement. Little does she know that what she finds on the mountain will lead her to one her most dramatic cases of her working life.

McNab meanwhile is in Glasgow and still dodging bullets. His lovelife is about to take an interesting turn and he is about to uncover a vile secret party where underage girls are abducted from other countries, smuggled in to the UK and sold for sex.

As both parties investigate their different cases, little do they know they will meet up in a cruel and unrelenting part of the world.

It is always a good sign when you crack open a book and immediately get sucked in to the story. This is what happened to me with ‘Follow the Dead’. As I sat in my living room in July, the sun peeping out now and again from between the clouds, I was oblivious to it all. Instead, as I sat on my sofa there was snow drifting around my feet and a slight shiver ran through me as I accompanied Rhona MacLeod up in to the snowy depths of the Cairngorm Mountains in deep January snow. Such was Anderson’s mesmeric prose that I felt as though I needed a blanket round me instead of shorts and a T-shirt.

With great detail, although not so much that it slows the plot or shows the reader that Anderson has ‘done her homework’, we are taken along on a rescue mission to find four people who were known to be in the mountains, were scheduled but didn’t arrive at Aviemore for Hogmanay. On this snowbound mountain Rhona and the crew find more than they could ever expect when they arrive.

Smartly, Anderson cuts to McNab who is the brawn to Rhona’s brains. He is her complete opposite. Irrational and focussed on getting a perpetrator caught, even if it means he takes another bullet. Flipping between Aviemore and Glasgow, the two follow their own leads until they begin to intertwine. In steps Alvis Olsen from Norway and the case becomes even darker. I liked Olsen a lot and while I know Norway can’t be involved in every case, I’d really like to know how this self-isolated man moves on to the next stage of his grieving process. I won’t say anymore in fear of saying anything that spoils it for you!

All I will recommend is that when you start on this book, turn off the phone, get a flask of coffee and wear warm clothes! The Cairngorms and the North Sea feature prominently – so freezing cold and rain are on the forecast. But it will definitely be worth it to take this journey with MacLeod and McNab. Great page-turning stuff!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) ‘Follow the Dead’ begins around Hogmanay in the Scottish Cairngorm Mountains. You vividly describe the haunting beauty and treachery of these mountains. Are you a keen walker/mountaineer yourself?
I’m a walker but not a climber, although I have skied on Cairngorm, badly I might add. The idea for ‘Follow the Dead’ came to me at New Year 2015. It was snowing heavily and we were all sitting by the fire in Carrbridge my home village, playing the game where you write a famous character’s name on a Post-it and then try and guess the one you’ve been given to wear. Looking out at the blizzard conditions, I imagined just such a scene playing out at one of the bothies on Cairngorm and ‘Follow the Dead’ was born.
2) It was fascinating to read about Rhona MacLeod’s expedition with the Cairngorm rescue team in the helicopter to find the stranded climbers. ‘Follow the Dead’ is dedicated to the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team. Did you get a lot of your information for this book from them?
As soon as I had the idea I contacted Willie Anderson, team leader at Cairngorm Mountain Rescue. We met up at the Rescue centre and he gave me lots of books about their work. Willie’s a good story teller and there are many stories of rescues that are frankly, hair-raising. We met lots of times and in between if I needed information I would text him. E.g. how long to walk from the end of Loch A’an to the Shelter Stone? Back came 5 mins. I immediately thought, for you maybe, more like ten for me!
3) What is found in the Cairngorms ties up with the start of an investigation led by DS McNab who has a habit of ‘going rogue’ on his cases to get results. Although Rhona MacLeod headlines your cast, I feel you really enjoy writing about McNab. Why did you place McNab and MacLeod together when they are complete opposites?
I love writing about McNab because he exasperates me as much as he does Rhona. It’s through their tetchy yet strong relationship that we learn more about both characters. Rhona always stands up for McNab to others, and she trusts him with her life, but she despairs sometimes at his ability to self destruct. And, she can be pretty determined and wayward herself when the mood takes her.
4) As the case unfolds, you bring in a connection to Norway. How did this come about and were you initially concerned about getting details right about police procedures in Norway?
A few years ago, I was asked to give a talk on Tartan Noir versus Nordic Noir at the Edinburgh Film Festival in advance of a showing of the original Insomnia film. I used to live in Orkney and taught at Kirkwall Grammer School where many of my pupils had Norwegian names, so I was aware of the strong connections between Scotland and Norway. Researching for the talk made me even more aware. At its closest point Scotland is a mere 160miles from Norway. I knew that joint investigations happened quite frequently, in particular involving the North Sea, so I contacted the Norwegian consulate in Edinburgh (they come to Bloody Scotland to see the Norwegian writers) and they set up a visit for me to Stavanger where I met with Police Inspektor Egil Erikson and the heads of each of the sections I was interested in. They were wonderful, and like Police Scotland, keen to help. They also put me in touch with Bjørn J Åmlid of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) South-Norway (Stavanger), because the story involves scenes in the North Sea.
5) The series has grown and become quite different from your earlier books. Do you feel your characters have evolved as you have evolved as a writer? Will there be more for Rhona and McNab?
My dad was a DI in Greenock. His biggest fear was that he would turn up at a scene of crime to discover the victim was one of his three daughters. The idea for Driftnet arose from that. Rhona was inspired by a former Maths pupil of mine who became a forensic scientist. Rhona thinks a teenage victim might be the son she gave up for adoption seventeen years before. That was the dramatic premise for ‘Driftnet’. I didn’t envisage it as a series, but then I loved writing about Rhona and her gang and readers loved them too.

McNab first appeared in ‘Dark Flight’. A former and brief lover of Rhona’s, he still holds a candle for her. Rhona is McNab’s true weak point. And in a way he is hers. They have the power to redeem or to destroy each other. So there’s lots more to come for them both.
6) You are one of the founders of ‘Bloody Scotland’ which has very quickly taken off and become a huge success. How do you feel about this literary event that has won such a big following?
‘Build it and they will come’. That was our mantra. Alex Gray and I came up with the idea of Bloody Scotland while at a CWA conference in Lincoln. It occurred to us that we were coming south to crime festivals as were many of our excellent Scottish crime writers, so we decided it was time to invite people to come to us. We knew it was a great idea because of the wonderful response of the crime writing community to it. Alex came up with the name. It’s brilliant, and it suits Stirling where the festival is held, as Stirling is key to Scotland’s bloody history. In fact, this year we open the festival on 8th Sept in the Great Hall at the castle. I love that authors and readers love coming to Bloody Scotland. They’ve made it the success it is.
7) For writers who are just starting out on their ‘novel journey’, what one piece of advice would you give?
I’d give the two pieces of advice given to me. It’s all about character. And, keep the secret, any secret however small, for as long as possible.
8) Are you a fan of crime fiction in general? What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you and would take with you to a desert island?
I was a huge Agatha Christie fan in my early teens. Read them all. However, the three books I would not be parted from are Laidlaw by Willie McIlvanney, who is the Godfather of Tartan Noir. Robert Louis Stevenson – Kidnapped, a thriller crime, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a psychological crime story. All three of these made me want to be a writer.