Time and Tide

Written by Shirley McKay
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

In Scotland in October of 1582, a ship is wrecked on the coast of St. Andrews. There is one survivor plus a windmill which is lashed to the deck. Both are rescued but the survivor, of whom only his name, Jacob, is known, dies, and the windmill becomes an object of intense interest to the local residents.

I have to admit that I did not open this book, subtitled as ‘A Hew Cullan Mystery’, with any great enthusiasm. Regardless of the plot, the dialogue in this sub-genre of Scottish detective stories is often interspersed to one degree or another with Scots dialect, and, unless the author has thoughtfully provided a glossary, can be difficult to follow. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to find that this was not so this time. There was dialect, but it was skilfully done, and the meaning of the unfamiliar words made clear within the text. The characterisation was good, and the more I read the more I became involved in the story and wanted to know the outcome, but it was very slow to start, and I found myself skipping paragraphs in the beginning in order to catch up with the story again. Eventually, of course, like the windmill itself, the tale turned full circle, the events taking us from Scotland to the Low Countries and back to Scotland again and the final identity of the lone survivor.