Today I’m delighted to welcome Marsali Taylor to the blog. Marsali is interviewing Cass Lynch from her murder mystery novel, Death on a Shetland Isle. Let’s find out a bit about the book first.
Indomitable Cass Lynch has a shock as her tall ship Sorlandet prepares to leave for the Shetland Islands: the new third mate looks like, is, her dead lover Alain – but why is he pretending to be a Spanish stranger? She’s also concerned about Laura and Oliver Eastley, trainees on her watch. Laura is still recovering from the shock of their parents’ car-crash death. An accident in the Neolithic Mousa Broch makes Cass suspect that another death is planned…. but how can she protect Laura from her own brother? This seventh investigation for Cass and Gavin reunites them with Cass’s parents, her friends Inga and Magnie and of course the engaging Peerie Charlie in a summer investigation on Fetlar, one of Shetland’s outer isles.
Now let’s move onto Marsali’s interview with Cass
I looked gloomily at the email. Editor, Shetland Times, it was headed, and underneath was a cheery missive suggesting that, as a notable local sailor, I might like to give them an interview for their “Shetland Boat Week” advertising feature. I could think of nothing I wanted to do less, but I supposed I could have a look at their questions, just to show willing.
The opening was easy enough. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Cass Lynch, aged thirty, daughter of an Irish oil man and a French opera singer. I grew up on Muckle Roe, and went to school in Brae.
They didn’t need to know about Maman tearing herself away from us to go back to singing, or the rows I had with Dad when he announced that he was being posted to the Gulf, and I was to go and stay with her in Poitiers. It had been an awful year. I’d missed my friends and the easygoing Shetland lifestyle, but most of all I’d been homesick, heartsick, for the sea I’d grown up with, the beach below our house in waves of frothy lace, the ribbons fluttering on the red sails of my own little Osprey. When Maman began talking of the French bac and Poitiers University, I began planning. I booked a berth aboard a Russian tall ship in the Cutty Sark race going from La Rochelle to Edinburgh, emptied my bank account and got myself safely back in Scottish waters, where sixteen counted as an adult.
I contemplated the e-mail, and wished I had a pen to chew. I could tell them about my sailing career. I’ve crewed on a number of tall ships, I supposed I’d better mention my longship. I came back to Shetland to skipper the replica longship Stormfugl, which featured in the recently-released Hollywood film Sea Road. A fun job that had turned out to be – oh, not my beautiful Stormfugl, who sailed like a dream, the Vikings were ship wizards, but the shenanigans involved when I’d come back from a night sail to find a dead body on the deck. My dad and I had shared the role of chief suspect … I moved on rapidly. I’m now second officer on board the Norwegian tall ship Sørlandet, the world’s oldest square-rigger.
What was your first boat? Easy. I began sailing in Mirrors, up at Delting Boating Club, and my first boat was called Osprey. When I was fifteen I came second in the Mirror World Championships, at Largs. No, that was too much like boasting. I scored it out.
Do you have a boat now? Stupid question. When I’m not on Sørlandet I live aboard my own Khalida, a Van de Stadt designed Offshore 8 Metre, moored at Brae marina.
Where’s the furthest you’ve taken your boat? I brought her across from Norway, with my friend Anders crewing. That had been a straightforward voyage, at the start of the Longship case. I’ve sailed there singlehanded several times since, across to Bergen and down to Kristiansand, to join Sørlandet. My furthest trip was down to the Highlands of Scotland. That had been to meet Gavin, not yet my lover, whose family lived in a farm at the end of a remote and beautiful sealoch. I was just thinking we might get our first kiss when we discovered a body in the bracken.
Tell us about an interesting sailing experience. “Interesting.” I’d had a few of these. There was the time in the Body in the Bracken case when a suspect had cut my Khalida adrift in a flying gale, and the time I’d had to get myself hurriedly away from the bay where I’d seen the ghost of a Viking warrior before a hurricane blew up. That had been in that case involving Maman’s company of temperamental opera singers. Then of course there was the voyage from Norway to Belfast which had ended in me being stalked round the Titanic museum by a professional killer. I sighed, and wrote, I always enjoy crewing in the local regatta. You get some great spinnaker duels.
Have you any exciting voyages planned for this summer? In between voyages on Sørlandet I’m going to be relief crew aboard Swan, Shetland’s own tall ship. I’ll be going to Papa Stour and Foula on her in October, so I’m looking forward to exploring the caves, and seeing the second-highest cliffs in Britain.
Dogs or cats on the water? Strange question. My Cat has adapted very well to liveaboard life. On board Sørlandet he makes it clear she’s the highest-ranking ship in the harbour, which makes him the highest-ranking cat. When we’re at Brae he enjoys foraging along the shoreline. He mostly stays below at sea, but he had a lifejacket and lifeline for when he wants to be in the cockpit.
If you could have any boat in the world, which would you choose? I grinned to myself. The Shetland Times was still a Wishart-owned newspaper. I’d go straight for a local boat – Robert Wishart’s beautiful wooden yacht Flora. Not really, of course – classic wood was very well, but to keep it head-turning you had to spend your life varnishing – and besides, my little, tough Khaldia was my other self. We’d got each other out of rather more trouble than I cared to think about.
What do you find most satistying about being on the water? I couldn’t say any of it in public. Perhaps to Gavin, only to Gavin, and he didn’t need to be told. I loved being out there alone, with the endless sea stretching from hill to horizon. I loved the silence, away from other people’s cars and radios and TVs. I loved being captain of my own ship, with nothing but sea-knowledge and common sense to guide me. I loved the feel of my boat under me, and the white curve of sails above.
I deleted the last question, re-read the rest, pulled a face and pushed send.
Cass sounds a fascinating character, doesn’t she? If you want to read about her adventures you can buy the book here:
Cass’s next adventure, Death on a Shetland Cliff is to be published by Headline in July.
Marsali Taylor’s crime series is set in contemporary Shetland, and features livaboard sailor Cass Lynch and her ally, DI Gavin Macrae. She is also a columnist and reviewer for Practical Boat Owner, and a crime novel reviewer for Mystery People. Marsali has lived in Shetland since arriving there as a green probationer teacher of French and English in 1981. She lives on the scenic west side with her husband, a three unruly cats and a self-willed Shetland pony. She is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history. She has published plays in Shetland’s distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women’s suffrage in Shetland. She’s a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, as well as going on tall ship trips further afield, and an active member of her local drama group.
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Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Marsali.