Cullrothes, in the Scottish Highlands, where Innes hides a terrible secret from
his girlfriend Alice, a gorgeous, cheating, lying schoolteacher. In the same
village, Donald is the aggressive distillery owner, who floods the country with
narcotics alongside his single malt; when his son goes missing, he becomes
haunted by an anonymous American investor intent on purchasing the
Cullrothes Distillery by any means necessary. Schoolgirl Jessie is trying to get
the grades to escape to the mainland, while Grandpa counts the days left in his
This is a place where mountains are immense and the loch freezes in winter. A
place with only one road in and out. With long storms and furious midges and a
terrible phone signal. The police are compromised the journalists are scum, and
the innocent folk of Cullrothes tangle themselves in a fermenting barrel of
suspicion, malice and lies…
It’s great being a book blogger, but the one downside is that you are always putting books off because you need to stick to your reviewing schedule. Well, let me tell you that this is one book that I could not wait to read and I devoured it as soon as it landed on my doormat. I love books set in Scotland and the fact that this was written by a fellow teacher also captured my imagination. All I can say is what a read and you need to add it to your TBR pile without delay as it deserves every single one of its plaudits and more – so when Anne Cater asked me if I’d like to take part in the blog tour for it, I bit her hand off…
The Scottish setting was right up my street and I was absolutely carried off to the Highlands to spend a few days in Cullrothes alongside these characters as I read. Allan Gillespie can certainly write and the story of Innes and Alice is so perfectly realised that it was hard at times to remember that they are fictional characters rather than real people whose lives I had become tangled up in. The fact that this story allows us a bird’s eye view of so many intertwining lives certainly holds your attention as you read and it keeps you on your toes as you wait to see how their lives will intersect. The remote setting was something that really appealed to me as I love the Highlands and understand that sense of being cut off rom the world in such a rural setting. Added to this was the fact that Allan actually teaches alongside a friend of mine and I get so excited to hear about teachers bringing their writing goals to life and getting a publishing deal. I loved this book so much that I’m defnitely featuring it in my Summer 17 Degrees column – and if you are headed north this summer on a NC500 Journey of discovery, then this could be the perfect holiday read to soak up that Highland atmosphere…
Cullrothes is never presented as just another Highland village, I think that it’s a testament to the strength of the writing that we feel all of the emerging undercurrents coming to life as we delve deeper into the story. The way that the teacher character is one of the least likable in the novel is a nice touch when you consider Gilllespie’s profession and does make you wonder if this is based on someone that he’s actually worked alongside at some point in his career as you read. If you like your Tartan Noir as dark as it comes, you will fall for this pitch-black tale that will definitely keep you on your toes as you read.
The idea that things are a lot sleepier in the country are soundly dispelled as we bear witness to murder, double crossing, drug dealing and a disappearance – and you will definitely get the sense that there is a lot more going on than meets the eye in not so peaceful Cullrothes. You will find it hard to put this book down as you’ll be so wrapped up in this tale of grudges, secrets and lies that you’ll need to keep reading and find out how it all ends. The distillery is not the only dark highland secret that’s brewing in this book and it’s safe to say that there were parts of this novel that I read with a thudding heart and sweaty palms as I was not sure how it was all going to end. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and I’m really jealous of anyone who’s yet to start reading The Mash House as they are definitely in for a treat.
I absolutely recommend The Mash House to people who really enjoy a crime read that is as far from formulaic and predictable as it is possible to be. In the present reading climate, many books can seem very same-y and this book certainly stood out a mile amongst the competition. I loved the brilliantly evocative setting as much as I enjoyed the plot and I will definitely be recommending The Mash House to friends of mine who enjoy Scottish crime that is as atmospheric as it is enjoyable. I like reading ‘dark’ books on sunny days and it was fantastic to spend a summy Sunday in Alan Gillespie’s company as I tore through this book which definitely left me wanting more
I’m excited to see what Alan Gillespie does next and am keen to see another talented Scottish crime writer emerge from the classroom and start taking the fiction world by storm
Writer On The Shelf
Alan Gillespie is a writer and teacher from Fife, Scotland. He has studied at the Universities of Stirling, Glasgow and Strathclyde. His articles and stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Herald, Northwords Now and New Writing Scotland, and elsewhere.
In 2011 he was awarded the Scottish Emerging Writer’s residency at Cove Park. The Mash House is his first novel.