Crawford, author among other things of Fallen Glory (2017), a history of 20 of the world’s most famous ruined buildings, as well as several books of photographs of Scotland viewed from the air, blends archaeology, architecture, and detection in this collection.
Together with Lin Anderson, co-founder of the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival, and festival director Bob McDevitt, Crawford devised a challenge: gather a dozen of Scotland’s top crime writers and ask each to set a story in one of the country’s iconic buildings. The result is a collection both diverse and surprisingly cohesive. The stories range in time from Lin Anderson’s “Orkahaugr,” which starts in the present but flows back to the 12th century, to Chris Brookmyre’s hilarious “The Last Siege of Bothwell Castle,” in which two larcenous urchins confront a band of Islamic State group terrorists. They also range in tone, from Sara Sheridan’s earnest “Sanctuary,” in which an abused wife seeks safe haven as caretaker at Kinneil House, to Stuart MacBride’s antic “Stevenson’s Candle,” the tale of an inspector whose attempts to restore order at Kinnaird Head Lighthouse spiral increasingly out of control. But the stories all convey a strong sense of place. The characters’ attachment to the site may be instrumental, as in Doug Johnstone’s “Painting the Forth Bridge,” or thematic, as in Denise Mina’s “Nemo Me Impune Lacessit,” or even mystical, as in Ann Cleeves’ “The Return.” But it is never incidental. In bloody Scotland, geography, not biology, is destiny, and these 12 stories demonstrate that fate is not always kind.
Here’s hoping that Scotland boasts enough landmarks to give Crawford the chance for an encore.