The Last Refuge – Craig Robertson

Last RefugeTitle – The Last Refuge

Author – Craig Robertson

Published – 22 May 2014

Genre – Crime

I’m not sure that I need to go to the trouble of writing a review for this latest title by Craig Robertson, as I have already given it a one via Twitter. Admittedly that was just a one word review, but the word was ‘stonking’. Whilst it’s not the most informative review I stand by the fact that this is an “exciting, very impressive” book, but I should perhaps expand on that a little.

stonking

This is a departure from Robertson’s earlier series featuring Tony Winter, the police photographer, and takes place on the Faroe Islands. The opening feels like a scene that’s a familiar one in crime fiction – a man who wakes to find that he’s clutching a blood-covered knife with no idea how it got there, or whether or not he may have committed a crime. Don’t let this put you off – there’s nothing clichéd about this story.

Turn back the clock three months and John Callum arrives on the Faroe Islands from Scotland. For reasons that are unclear Callum is seeking somewhere remote to take refuge and initially it seems that he has made the right move, until of course he has to find a job to support himself. Gradually he starts to become involved with more people – a job at a fish farm, a few acquaintances in the local bars and a potential romance. But this is where the trouble starts. There is an inherent violence about Callum, something he tries to resist but there are occasions when it erupts, to the surprise of the locals.

Callum’s dreams, or rather nightmares, are interspersed through the story and provide an insight into the events that led him to escape his Scottish home – but it is inevitable that the reader asks themselves how reliable nightmares are. Despite this it’s clear that they never cease to shake Callum, whatever took place in Scotland is something that he has some regrets over, and his mind is torturing him. This all serves to make him an intriguing character – should the reader find him sympathetic without knowing what it is he is running away from? But told in the first person, it’s hard not to be drawn in.

In some ways this is a book of two halves – the first setting the scene and the background, where the mystery is what led Callum to be clutching the bloody knife. The second half is solving the riddle of whether or not he is guilty of the crime in which he is implicated – he doesn’t know and neither does the reader. Once the crime becomes clear then we’re in police procedural / detective territory – and this benefits from some antagonism between the local force and the team called in from Denmark.

The location is a really interesting choice, the isolation, small population and the harsh and varied environment give the book the feel of a ‘Nordic noir’. The bleak and gloomy weather and surroundings matching the dark tone of Callum’s past and the situation that he finds himself in. Seeing the setting through Callum’s eyes, as an outsider, is the perfect way to introduce an unusual location, and all I know about the Faroe Islands I found out from this story. There are some quirks of the Islands that lend themselves very well to the story (or more likely have been cleverly drawn on by the author) and add to the plot.

I thought the plotting was excellent and the way Robertson told Callum’s story was intriguing. I was completely drawn in and have to confess to being baffled about the ‘whodunnit’ aspect for quite some time. An excellent read that I can’t recommend highly enough. I could ramble on for even longer – but I suggest you go out and buy a copy for yourself.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another review of this on Emma Lee’s Blog.

1star1star1star1star1star

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