St Kilda Fever
by FMT Macdonald (2019)
An intriguing mystery thriller set on the Outer Hebrides in the 1970's, with the Cold War as backdrop.
It is 1975. Dr Helen MacAllister has recently moved to the Isle of Lewis to work as the first female GP on the island; and is temporarily living alone in a croft house belonging to her cousin.
One day in the village, she hears the news of a body having been found in the sea. However, it is not she who gets called out to certify the death, but some doctor from the mainland; which suggests that there is something extra suspicious about it.
Helen gets involved in another way, though, when shortly afterwards, in the midst of a storm and a power cut, she finds a wounded man lying unconscious in her own barn...
"St Kilda" is a small island (or group of islands) off the west coast of Lewis/Harris. It was inhabited from the Bronze age into the early 20th century, but then deserted from around 1930 until 1955 - when the British government decided to use it for certain military defense purposes (playing a part in this fictional story).
I enjoyed the novel both for the story "as such" and for the general Outer Hebrides atmosphere, as I have also come to know it from other sources in recent years - like Peter May's Lewis trilogy (The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man and The Chessmen) + a certain blog that I've been following for almost exactly ten years now... (I know that many of my readers here follow that, too - I am of course referring to Eagleton Notes.) Sometimes I almost feel like I've been to these islands myself, although I haven't... (I did visit Scotland in the early 1970's, but not the islands. Loch Ness and Inverness was as far north as we got.)
I got a printed copy of this book sent to me straight from the island, which of course makes it all the more precious to me. But I just checked, and I see that it is also available as e-book for Kindle at a fair price.
A little teaser:
'Right, Helen, let's get a grip. What do we do now?' Speaking to yourself is usually frowned upon by my profession. In fact, it sometimes results in sectioning or removal to a mental hospital if the patient persists. But I'd always found a one to one conversation with myself useful when I'd a problem. No confidences were ever breached, there was no waiting list and you didn't have to explain your problem to a nosey receptionist. (page 58)