Many writers, even those native to the Highlands can imbue their descriptions with a sense of twee kitsch and a paint by numbers version of what is a beautiful, but highly complex, part of the world. Writing the Highlands is easy, but writing the Highlands well, with a sensitivity to the land and it's deep history is a feat that only those with a unforced empathy can complete.
Ulstein is to be congratulated for a pacey and twisty police procedural, which could have easily been a paint-by-numbers scandi-noir missing girl story. Instead we dance back and forward between the present day search of Iben Lind, and people and places from twenty years before a town away.
This is a work that undermines the notion of the contemporary realism as it is set half in reality, half in myth, half in the physical world, half in the mind. Being partly made of myth and mind, the reality The Maidens presents us with beyond physical buildings, and bodies is slippery, subjective and hard to pin down.
In the interest of transparency CJ Cooper and I share more than just two initials. We worked together for a while and have kept in touch ever since. I paid full price for my copy of The Book Club, published by Constable, but it would not be unreasonable for you to feel a little sceptical …