Phosphate Rocks: A Surprisingly Personal Review
I've never been part of a blog tour before but wow! What a fantastic book for my first time out!
When I read Phosphate Rocks two thoughts struck me. Number one, I haven't read anything quite like this before. Number two, has Fiona Erskine had unlimited access to the history of my family, because several of them could very well feature in it!
(If I'm honest, there was a Thought Number Three, which was a bout of the green-eyed monster at how well-written and witty this book is, but nobody likes professional envy so let's ignore that one.)
Anyway, the book. The front cover describes in thus ‘During the demolition of a factory, a shocking discovery is made: a mummified corpse encased in a carapace of hardened dust – phosphate rock – surrounded by ten objects that provide tantalising clues as to its identity...’
I found it an absolutely compelling read, clever and inventive, but with a deeply engrossing human story at the heart of it. I loved spending time with the characters in the book, and obviously I can't reveal who the body turns out to be, but I will warn you, there may be tears. There certainly were in this house.
Now, about that family history... My family all hail from Leith. I ruthlessly mined my Leith connections for my first novel (after you've bought and enjoyed Phosphate Rocks check out A Fine House in Trinity if you want more Leith-based literature.)
My late Uncle Tommy was a merchant seaman, then worked for J&J Cunningham, which was part of the Scottish
Agricultural Industries featured in the book, and he would have been a contemporary of the novel’s characters. I have early memories of my uncle sporting his SAI donkey jacket. I have very fond recollections of him, and he remains the only family member I've written a poem about (although my brother may yet earn himself a limerick.)
Phosphate Rocks features a range of shenanigans involving a bonded warehouse, whisky rustling, and the involvement of the Thin Blue Line. My Auntie Cathy worked in a bonded warehouse, but would never have been involved with such illegal activity because my father was a Sergeant in the Leith Police, including a stint based in the Docks. Fiona's depiction of the Leith of that era chimes really strongly with my memories of my father's stories.
In short, Phosphate Rocks, rocks!
About the Author
A professional engineer with forty years of international manufacturing experience, Fiona Erskine’s first graduate job was in the factory described in Phosphate Rocks. Born in Edinburgh, Fiona grew up riding motorbikes and jumping into cold water. After studying chemical engineering at university, she learned to weld, cast and machine with apprentices in Paisley.
As a professional engineer she has worked and travelled internationally and is now based in the North East of England. Her first novel, The Chemical Detective, which was shortlisted for the Specsavers Debut Crime Novel Award 2020, was followed by The Chemical Reaction.
You can purchase the book directly from the Sandstone Press Bookshop: BUY PHOSPHATE ROCKS