Wednesday 7 December 2016

Would you recognise your own son? - How a crime series began with DRIFTNET

The boy did not expect to die are the opening words of Driftnet, the story that launched the Rhona MacLeod series. It opens with Rhona, a forensic expert, arriving at a murder scene only to find that the teenage victim looks so like her, she thinks he may be the son she gave up for adoption seventeen years before.

University of Glasgow, where Rhona is based

At the time of the Dunblane school massacre (where 16 primary school pupils and a teacher were shot dead by Thomas Hamilton), I was a computing teacher in a secondary school in Edinburgh. When the terrible news reached my school, all anyone on the staff wanted to do was take their own children home.

I too had a small child in the adjacent primary school, but couldn’t take him home, because there was an after-school event for staff on the subject of child protection, and there was a social worker from Glasgow coming to talk to us.

That talk included information about three paedophile rings they suspected were working in Glasgow, and how these rings had just found the Internet.

That terrible murder of children, coupled with that lecture left an indelible mark on me.

Two other things combined with that memory to create the story of Driftnet.

My father (already deceased) had been a CID officer in Greenock police force. He had three daughters who he worried about a lot. One big fear was that he might turn up at a scene of crime and discover one of his daughters was the victim.

The third and final influence which helped create the story, was the revelation around that time that former MP Clare Short had had a child she gave up for adoption. She revealed this when her son came looking for her in his thirties.

Rhona finds out quite quickly that the boy is not her son, but the fear that he might have been drives her to start searching for her son. It also makes the death of the teenage victim seem more personal, and Driftnet sees her search for her son and the killer run in tandem.

Original cover for DRIFTNET

The killer is watching her, as much as she is seeking him, and the clash of her personal and professional lives created the character Rhona MacLeod.

I had no idea when I came up with that premise and character that Driftnet would be an immediate best seller, and would be the first in a series now running to eleven books and a novella, with the the twelfth book Follow the Dead now available for pre-order on Amazon.

I often think that Rhona MacLeod found me, rather than the other way round.


*** Promo from 29th October 2017 for limited time:  Buy Driftnet eBook on Amazon for 99p ***


Tuesday 15 November 2016

Deadlines and how to survive them

All writers have their own methods of writing.  One question I’m most often asked concerns ‘to plan or not to plan’. My method is not to plan.

I visualise an opening which intrigues and frightens me. Something bad happens, and the team arrive to try and figure out who and why. Hence, you the reader know a little more of the initial circumstances than Rhona and the team.

Then the investigation begins. Like all investigations there are twists and turns and false leads and people screwing up, being tested, often found wanting. Like a jigsaw, pieces are spotted and sometimes they fit. Often not.

As I progress the investigation through the team’s eyes, ideas arise. I do the research and more ideas come. Like life, the deeper you delve, the more complex the result.

I like this way of working. It makes telling stories exciting, and if I don’t know the answer to the riddle by page hundred, neither will you.

The first chapter of the first novel in the series, Driftnet begins with the sentence, ‘The boy did not expect to die’. The opening scene came to me in a visual form. I wrote it down and it never changed.

After that the story formed itself.

Each of the Rhona books happened that way, right through to the latest None but the Dead set on the island of Sanday on Orkney. Some are inspired by things people have said, or stories they’ve told me.

With None but the Dead it was the story of the discovery of thirteen muslin flowers in the loft of an old schoolhouse. The image sparks the story, the ending of which I do not know… yet.

And I’m back there now. Working towards what my friend and fellow crime writer, Alex Gray calls ‘the red fog of the denouement’.

This will be the first book in the series to visit my home area. When my father retired from the police force he took his family north to settle in Carrbridge. My three children were born here. I’m back here seeking to meet my deadline.

En route to the finale, the team (like myself) have gone from the top of Cairngorm to Stavanger in Norway. A joint investigation between Police Scotland and Politi- og lensmannsetaten informs the story.

When I wrote that opening all those months ago I had no idea I would end up in the middle of the North Sea. That’s the wonder and thrill of a real (and fictional) investigation.

Once in the final section of the book, everything you’ve written, all those twists and turns you’ve made, must be held in your memory. The world of your characters becomes your world. They are with you always, their voices in your head, often reminding you of what they know, and what you’ve forgotten.

Eventually the story comes together because, as every story is a character in action, so those characters determine the ending.

I like to believe that my characters will save me. If I remind them often enough that we are working (like any good thriller) against the clock, then they will come up trumps.

Okay… it’s worked up to now.

And so, back to meeting that deadline.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Bob Moore: 2016 Golden Spurtle World Porridge Champion (Video)

I had the great please of acting as MC for the 2016 World Porridge Making Championships in my home village of Carrbridge. The winner was Bob Moore, of Milwaukie, Oregon, USA, and you couldn't have had a more worthy and deserving winner.

Watch this lovely video by Fergus Thom of highlights of Bob's big day (you might even catch a few glimpses of me and Craig Robertson) ...

Related links:-

The Golden Spurtle
Competition Rules
Carrbridge website
CNN film of 2013 Golden Spurtle
Mary's Meals - World Porridge Day 
Crime Writers Do Porridge

Monday 17 October 2016

Prepare to Lose Sleep - Scottish Field review : NONE BUT THE DEAD

The Orkney Island of Sanday in the middle of winter becomes a character in its own right in Lin Anderson's latest novel in the Rhona MacLeod series.

As if the discovery of human remains in the grounds of a former primary school and thirteen flowers representing the souls of dead children in the attic of the nearly schoolhouse isn't enough, the Glasgow-based forensic expert, and her team including the dogged DS MacNab have the additional challenge of weather as inhospitable as some of the island's inhabitants.

Without a police station and with an intermittent Internet connection and no access to the usual tools for solving crime such as CCTV, the investigation team have to use their knowledge and gut instincts to piece together crimes that see the past and the present collide in a way that threatens to rip apart this small island community, which is overly keen to keep its secrets.

Anderson superbly ratchets up the tension as the team race to rescue a missing girl before the approaching storm hits the island.

Prepare to lose sleep.


Related links:-

Hearing the singing of long-lost children - None But The Dead review on Undiscovered Scotland

Shades of The Wicker Man with a touch of Agatha Christie - Daily Mail review

The Write Stuff: None But The Dead by Lin Anderson (extract from book)

Monday 3 October 2016

Crime Writers Do Porridge

Coming up in Carrbridge on Saturday 8th October 2016 - the 23rd annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship, this year with two Bloody Scotland crime writers involved!

Master of Ceremonies for the 23rd Championships will be myself, Lin Anderson, with Carrbridge being my home village, and one of this year's judges will be Craig Robertson from Stirling. Both Craig and myself are Directors of the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival.

Lin Anderson                                                   Craig Robertson

Craig has previously been a judge at the Scottish Haggis Championship, the Scottish Steak Pie Championship, and the World Black Pudding Championship (in Mortagne, France), so the Golden Spurtle on 8th October will fill an obvious gap in his CV!

'Queen of Crime' Val McDermid was keen to enter, but her schedule would not permit this year, so maybe next year!

Things will kick off around 10:00am on Saturday, entry is free, it looks like being fine weather, so come along for the day, and enjoy the fun, tastings, and competitions.

Related links:-

The Golden Spurtle
Competition Rules
Carrbridge website
CNN film of 2013 Golden Spurtle
Mary's Meals - World Porridge Day

Monday 26 September 2016

Hearing the singing of long-lost children - None But The Dead review

The Undiscovered Scotland website have put up an excellent and very thoughtful review of None But the Dead.

"None but the Dead" by Lin Anderson is the latest book in her series featuring forensic scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod. It is an outstandingly good read that brings together character, place and plot with consummate skill.

Read the full review here.

Friday 9 September 2016

Bloody Scotland - Here we Go! Here we Go! Here we Go!
Bloody Scotland is here again. Running from Friday 9th to the evening of Sunday 10th September at the Golden Lion hotel in Stirling, we have a fun packed rollercoaster ride for all crime fans (and the writers too). Running three events in parallel over the weekend, there’s something in there for everyone.

Programming Bloody Scotland
is great fun and the committee always strive to give a distinctive Scottish air to the proceedings. After all we are called Bloody Scotland.

Cue, a crime quiz that involves bagpipes, a bit of a ceilidh where crime writers perform, but not as you know them. Val McDermid, Alex Gray and I will be doing just that at Crime at the Coo.

We have drama (and that’s not just from the writers) in the form of an Inspector Faro play by Alanna Knight, where her Victorian deer stalker detective will played by non other than Stuart MacBride.

There is of course the Scotland versus England crime writers five a side football match, where the Scots are captained by Ian Rankin … a light-hearted affair (not!). There is a trophy to be won after all.

Events at the Golden Lion open with the McIlvanney Prize crime book of the year 2016 announcement, which will be broadcast live by the BBC. There will be a BBC TV team following the proceedings throughout the weekend, for a documentary featuring women and crime writing.

Forensic Science scores high on the list of must-sees with the professionals getting together with the fiction writers. Professor Lorna Dawson whose soil forensic knowledge helped convict the World’s End murderer, appears with me on a fictional Orkney case where soil forensics tracks down the killer  Digging up the Bodies.

If you like to talk pathology then Talking to the Dead starring Dr Marjorie Turner and Dr James Grieve with Alex Gray is the one for you, and thirdly Craig Robertson introduces forensic psychology professor Graham Pike who will find out how good a witness you would make in Witness the Dead.

The bar at the Golden Lion is the place to meet your favourite writers when they’re not on stage. And what a line up we have for you. Opening with Stuart MacBride and Caro Ramsay, via Mark Billingham, Chris Brookmyre, Val McDermid, Nicci French, Peter Robinson, Martina Cole, MC Beaton to name but a few, and the grand finale – Edinburgh’s finest, Ian Rankin and Quintin Jardine.

Check out the programme and see what I’ve failed to mention, because I’ve run out of time…

Must get packed for Bloody Scotland!


Related posts:-

Giving it Five for Bloody Scotland in Stirling

Happiness is a Festival called Bloody Scotland

Friday 2 September 2016




Every attendee at Bloody Scotland 2016 will receive a free book from Bookdonors, the new headline sponsor for this year, to celebrate the diversity of crime genre.

Bookdonors is a not for profit social enterprise, based in Tweedbank in the beautiful Scottish Borders. The organisation trades in used books for the benefit of people, charities and the environment with 100% of sales used to fulfil its social mission. Bloody Scotland co-founder Lin Anderson, who helped launch the company’s new website earlier in the year said, “This is a fantastic initiative, which will hopefully encourage people who come to Bloody Scotland to try out new authors, which is part of the joy of being an avid reader.”

Lin Anderson with 'her' Bookdonors van

Any person who has already read the free book they receive will be able to visit the Bookdonors stand, in the Golden Lion and swap it for something else. “The aim is to get people talking and sharing their passion and knowledge of crime fiction”, adds Tom Kenny, Bookdonors Managing Director. “Getting 10,000 books to the venues, in a short period of time, will be an interesting logistics challenge”, he added, “but our drivers in the distinctive branded Bookdonors vans, will be up for the challenge.”

Chris Brookmyre will also be doing signings at Stirling Books and the Oxfam bookshop at 10.30am on Sunday 11th September in Stirling, as a further example of community engagement and recognising the valuable work done by charities and independent bookshops. Both of these shops already work in partnership with Bookdonors, who collect from 500 charity shops across Scotland


So, if you haven't booked already, please come to the 5th Bloody Scotland, 9-11th September 2016, and get your free book.

Related links:-

Bloody Scotland Festival events:


Lin Anderson's latest book is: None But The Dead 

Saturday 20 August 2016

Policing a Nation - Getting It Right

Earlier this year I was invited to have dinner with the new Police Scotland Chief Phil Gormley and his wife Laura, a former senior police officer in her own right. It was a small affair, hosted by a friend of Phil Gormley to introduce him to Scotland’s crime writing community, and to allow us to chat informally to the new Police Constable about our work and our future access to Police Scotland, which has historically been very good.

Last year I visited the Gartcosh Campus, the new and future design of policing and forensic work in Scotland, with fellow crime writers Chris Brookmyre, Alex Gray, Craig Robertson and Ian Rankin, where we had had access to senior police officers across all disciplines.
Lin Anderson, Ian Rankin, Alex Gray, Chris Brookmyre at Gartcosh Campus

We Scottish crime writers value the support and openness we have with our police service and its associated professionals, and at Gartcosh the police officers assured us that they valued the benefit to them of us writers, within the limits of our fiction, ‘getting it right’ so that the public might better understand the way the police work.

I recently visited Stavanger in Norway. My next book, for publication in 2017, involves a joint police investigation between Norway and Scotland. I approached the Norwegian Consulate in Edinburgh in the first instance and they were delighted to put me in touch with Stavanger police.

Stavanger Police Station

When I arrived at the Stavanger police station, I found myself shown into a room with the heads of every force area I had intimated might feature in the book I am writing. I was also treated to Norwegian delicacies along with the coffee and tea, although I was so in awe of who I now had access to, I could hardly eat a bite.

The detailed material they gave me during the meeting was extraordinary. I learned for example that Norway, although not being a member of the EU has, in the Stravanger region, 100 different languages spoken as a result of the requirement to have open borders to access the European free trade area. Since then I have been in constant contact with them and they’ve answered every question I’ve posed. I look forward to launching Book 12 in my Rhona MacLeod series there as well as in Scotland.

During my visitor to Stavanger I also met Mohammad Habeeb, who was brought to Stavanger via ICORN, the International Cities of Refuge Network. Mohammad, a literary translator from Syria, whose translations include James Kelman’s  How Late it Was How Late into Arabic, had been imprisoned for nine years for writing about human rights.

He’d lived in a cell with five other prisoners. Despite this, he had managed to have manuscripts smuggled in, and translated them to support his wife and their newly born son, who he didn’t see for nine years.

ICORN Cities

A wall plaque in the Stavanger Cultural Centre, which is the global admistration centre for ICORN,  lists the ICORN cities which have provided homes to persecuted writers. Norwich in England is listed, and there are multiple locations in Norway, but no network locations in Scotland as yet, something which we should seek to remedy.

After hearing Mohammad’s story, I then told him that my next visit was to the Norwegian police. He smiled and told me that he could see that, unlike his experience in Syria, in Norway public institutions like the police worked for, and in support of, the citizens.

In Scotland, we are fortunately in a similar situation with our public services.  We are able to question approaches that are being taken, demand high standards, and expect transparency. When Ian Rankin chatted to his audience at the Edinburgh Book Festival and indicated that crime writers had been given police time, he was giving voice to the positive experience that most of us have when seeking help with our work from the police and other public servants in Scotland.  We couldn’t write our books without it.

Related links:-

Ian Rankin reveals Police Scotland chief had dinner with crime writers

Crime Writers at the Crime Campus

ICORN Cities of Refuge

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Sanday - A Very Special Island

Two books ago, I was invited to take part in Orkney and Shetland’s libraries’ 24 islands in 24 hours event. Anne Cleeves, fellow crime writer and author of the Shetland series, together with Stewart Bain (Librarian of the year 2016) were to the fore in the organisation of this ambitious project.

I visited three islands with Paths of the Dead, one of which was Sanday. Paul Harrison, true crime writer, hosted the event at his writer’s retreat. I was delighted to visit Sanday at last. When I used to live on mainland Orkney, my husband John had waxed lyrical about Sanday, where he’d played football on a midsummer’s day at midnight, having been asked by the man-short Stenness team to be in goal, even though we were then living in Orphir!

I arrived on the tiny island hopper aircraft. Climbing into a plane that seemed little bigger than a bumble bee, and seeing the itinerant music teacher complete with her fiddle, put in her earplugs, suggested it would be a noisy crossing. It was. And, because of a typical change in the weather, I had to take the ferry back to Kirkwall later in the day.

Picked up by Paul at the tiny airstrip, we headed for his home, a converted primary school from where he runs excellent courses in writing about crime.

My fabulous audience included Karen Binnie Douglas who became a great fan of the Rhona books and a friend. After the event, having a cup of tea with Paul and his partner, he handed me a clear evidence bag, suggesting I might be interested in its contents.

I must admit I felt a little strange looking in on what looked like an ancient muslin flower which might have fallen from Miss Haversham’s veil. When he told me its story I immediately knew that it could be the core of a Rhona book. Thus None but the Dead was born.

Two years later, I launched the book on Sanday with the enthusiastic help of Myra Stockton who was at that initial '24 islands' event. And what a fabulous launch it was. We set off for Sanday with the Orkney Library Saturday Slaughters book club and Stewart Bain, despite the dire warnings that we might not return because of gales.

The island turned out in force for the launch. Books were sold out in double time, and we then sat down with 140 islanders to enjoy a Sanday Soulka feast, with all of the food sourced in Orkney.

After getting back to Kirkwall through high seas, I signed the rest of the copies of None But The Dead that the fabulous Orcadian bookshop had in stock, and signed more later in the week, before I left Orkney.

What can I say? If you have never visited Orkney, and Sanday, you should - magical islands which house Neolithic remains older than Stonehenge. But best of all are the wonderful people who make you so welcome there.

None But The Dead was longlisted for the McIllvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year. Please buy a copy at a bookstore, or buy online. Reviews welcome!

'The bleak landscape is beautifully described, giving this popular series a new lease of life' - The Sunday Times

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Authors Gunning for the McIlvanney Prize

My book The Special Dead is included in a lovely piece in the Daily Record today by Jane Hamilton on 'authors gunning for the McIlvanney Prize', featuring three of the longlist contenders: The Special Dead, A Fine House in Trinity, and The Damage Done. (all ten longlist books shown below)

To read the Daily Record website piece on Lin Anderson click here.


See also:-

Godfather of Tartan Noir Led the Way for Others

Longlist Announced for the McIlvanney Prize Scottish Crime Book of the Year 2016

Monday 1 August 2016

Godfather of Tartan Noir Led the Way for Others

There is a great piece in today's Daily Record by Jane Hamilton about Willie McIlvanney and his legacy, confirming that in recognition of his contribution to crime fiction, the annual Scottish Crime Book of the Year has been renamed The McIlvanney Prize.

The Longlist of 10 books is a genuine testament to the current strength of Scottish crime writing

The winner will be announced on Friday 9th September at the Bloody Scotland festival, with a prize of £1,000.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

A Date for Your Diary - 'None but the Dead' event in Edinburgh

Book 11 in the Forensic Scientist Rhona MacLeod series is published next month, and, you are welcome to join me for the Pan Macmillan celebration at Waterstones West End in Edinburgh at 5pm on 15th August.

If you can be there, please RSVP confirming attendance to .

Sanday, one of Britain’s northernmost islands, inaccessible when the wind prevents the ferry from the mainland crossing, or fog grounds the tiny island hopping plane. When human remains are discovered to the rear of an old primary school, forensic expert Dr Rhona MacLeod arrives to excavate the grave. As the weather closes in, the investigation team are presented with a series of unexplained incidents, apparently linked to the discovery of thirteen magic flowers representing the souls of dead children, who’d attended the school. But how and in what circumstance did they die, and why are their long forgotten deaths significant to the current investigation?

Hope to see you on 15th August!

If you can't make it, you can still order None but the Dead here.

Thursday 21 July 2016

It would be a crime not to watch River Child

YouTube views for my award winning short film River Child have soared since I briefly wrote about it on this blog some months ago. Then, it was in the context of its showing at Glasgow Film Theatre in a ten year collection of films made by students of Scotland’s Screen Academy, where I graduated with an MA with Distinction in Screenwriting.

River Child wins 'best drama' award at Celtic Film Festival

Reading the comments posted on YouTube, it was wonderful to see such an appreciation of  Damian Wood, the director, and his role in bringing the script beautifully to life on the screen. The idea for River Child came first of all from my own love of swimming as a child.

Like Katie in the film, I had a friend, incidentally called Janice, who although we were the same age, seemed to be a font of all knowledge and much more in tune with the world than I was.

Sinead Carroll as 'Janice'

On my first day at the Screen Academy, in the script class, we were told by our tutor Mark Grindle that we had to come up with an idea for a short film and pitch it to the group. I was sitting on Mark's right and I remember thinking if he goes left round the circle, I’ll have time to come up with something. If he goes right, I’m f***ed.

‘Okay, Lin,’ he said. ‘You go first.’

And suddenly the idea came. I’d heard this moving poem discussed on BBC4. It was written by a woman, who, one hot summer’s day as a child, had spotted what she thought was a football floating in a weir. When she investigated she discovered it was a toddler.

She pulled the child out and looked for its mother. Finding her on a nearby beach among other families, the mother didn’t really believe her story. Throughout her life she always thought of the little boy she’d rescued as her ‘river’ child.

That’s what I pitched, little thinking the script I then wrote would ever actually be filmed. After all it had water and a baby in it!

The script was beautifully realised by director Damian Wood to the smallest detail … even the sound of water lapping in Katie’s ear, the sun’s rays above her as she floats. The sight of the baby in the water.

Someone on YouTube asked about  the baby in the film … those scenes were shot in Gourock outdoor heated swimming pool, with members of the mother and baby swimming club. Amazingly, that just happened to be the pool where I learned to swim myself, although it wasn’t heated back then.

The final shooting script was completed by Damian, myself and Mattias Karlsson, the producer, over a warm and sunny weekend in my home village of Carrbridge in the highlands, close to the River Dulnain, where I now swim.

River Child won a student BAFTA, and an award for best drama at the Celtic Film Festival. If you watch Damian’s realisation of the story, you’ll see why.


Update 1 - 15th October 2016: River Child now about to have 1,000,000 views on YouTube.

Update 2 - 16th August 2018: River Child now has 1,500,000 views on YouTube!

View River Child on YouTube here.