Thursday, 8 October 2015

From Darkness

Fair Isle, anyone?
Is it me or is this one big "crime thriller" cliche after another? It's The Killing meets Morse meets Luther meets Prime Suspect. (Though there are currently no suspects.) Here's a gruff Cockney cop with an Oxbridge sidekick who has a phobia of blood. Here's a brooding ex-cop staring towards the distant horizon, running away and running some more. (She probably needs some nice Fair Isle sweaters too, living where does.) Here are prostitute bones unearthed by an excavator.

We flit between grimy, rainy Manchester and a beautiful remote Scottish island. Red wine is slurped but not spilled over police files. And at an overly attended pub ceilidh for an island of 38 residents, the brooding ex-cop finally smiles. (There must be a lock-in.)

The brooding ex-cop now bakes biscuits for a living. And to burn off the biscuits, she trains to be an Iron Woman. Not an Iron Lady. Or an ironing lady. Hence the running. No metaphor whatsoever.

And yet she doesn't want to be reminded of the girls she "let down" 15 years ago. She doesn't want to talk about it. But the gruff cop says she has to. She is the only one who "knows". And the killer is still killing, though seemingly - and conveniently - not for the 15 years in between. The latest victim dies with the brooding ex-cop's lapel number clutched in her fist.

It's enough to suck you in. It truly is. But it also doesn't seem very original.

The scenery is gorgeous though. No rain on these Scottish islands, just never-ending sunshine and light. No midges either. You wouldn't wish to be anywhere else, if it looked like that all the time and you weren't likely to be attacked by a vicious cloud of insects the moment you set foot out the door.

From Darkness took me back to my last ever family holiday in 1995, staying in a possibly haunted cottage on the road between Fort William and Mallaig. The walls were lilac and despite the midnight twilight, the cottage was full of the eponymous darkness. We occupied the long evenings with arguments, bad Mills & Boon novels and a very large jigsaw - the only entertainment provided, other than midges.

Glen Coe
By day, we saw lochs a-plenty - Linnhe, Morar, Shiel. And locks a-plenty - at Neptune's staircase on the Caledonian Canal. We went walking in Glen Coe and Glen Nevis. At the latter we picked up two teenagers and their tent, the teenagers pock-marked by midge bites from head to toe. We saw the monument of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the railway viaduct crossed by the Hogwarts Express at Glenfinnan. And as for the islands, we went to Mull, Eigg and Iona.

Eigg was boilingly sunny, and dolphins and minke whales swam alongside our boat. Upon landing, a tractor serving as the island's bus service drove us to the Singing Sands. Singing sands really meant squeaking sands and it took vigorous foot friction to get any sound at all. Not that you can complain about anything when this is the view:

Singing Sands on Eigg

And on these islands there was also death. On a misty Iona we made a pilgrimage to John Smith's grave. He had died only the year before. The grave was shrouded in mist, a slab of rock marked by flowers, solitary pebbles and the words "An honest man's the noblest work of God."

At Aonach Mor, working the chairlift was a climber's husband, being interviewed by ITN and waiting for news. His wife Alison Hargreaves perished that week in a snowstorm on the side of K2. We were on the slopes of a sunny Ben Nevis, which people were ascending in sandals and stilettos. She had both conquered and been destroyed by a brutal mountain on the other side of the world, in almost the same breath. And her body had not yet been found.

Ben Nevis

Aonach Mor

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