Author: Doug Johnstone
Four friends, one weekend, gallons of whisky. What could go wrong? Driven by amateur whisky-nut Adam, four late-thirties ex-university mates are heading to Islay - the remote Scottish island world famous for its single malts - with a wallet full of cash, a stash of coke and a serious thirst. Over a weekend soaked in the finest cask strength spirit, they meet young divorcee Molly, who Adam has a soft spot for, her little sister Ash who has all sorts of problems and Molly's ex-husband Joe, a control freak who also happens to be the local police. As events spiral out of control, they are all thrown into a nightmare that gets worse at every turn.
Why did I pick up this book?
This book, at the time, was one of the latest offerings from Glasgow based publisher Cargo. The Kindle edition was insanely cheap and I had seen Johnstone perform at Words Per Minute. No brainer purchase to be quite honest.
I read this book on the flight going across the pond to America. It was exactly the read I needed on this flight: plot driven, fast paced and full of twists and turns to keep my brain from being bored. I did laugh at one point when two 'filler' characters were killed off in quick succession. My (apparent) literary fiction tastes means I don't come across such writing very often. Smokeheads did prepare me for my next read, The Black Dahlia, with its vivid and harsh descriptions of the violence inflicted on some of the characters.
This book is brutal, quick witted and sharp tongued. Johnstone is unashamedly passionate about whisky and this is revealed through the knowledge the characters have about Scotland's national drink. I was surprised to read such a plot driven book from Cargo but it merely emphasises the diversity of the writers on their books. They are one of the few champions of new and rising talents on the Scottish writing scene. I, for one, cannot see what they surprised me with next.
Would I recommend this book?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: to anyone that has a interest in thrillers, new Scottish writing or whisky (and doesn't want to read anything written by Iain Banks).