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Saturday 5 August 2023

From Germany to Shetland Noir by Carola Christiansen

Shetland Noir! That got me hooked from the first time I ever heard about it!

It all started with Marsali Taylor being invited as a guest lecturer to the plenary meeting of the Mörderische Schwestern (Murderous Sisters) in Germany in 2022.

Our team of
Transcrime is always on the lookout internationally for interesting women who have something to say and convey to fellow crime-writers.

So last year it was Marsali …

Her lecture was immensely interesting and she herself seemed very likable. By talking to her I found she even exceeded my expectations. A woman of great knowledge and an extremely big heart. She invited us to visit the Shetland Noir – and honestly, from that point there was no way back!

Just going to the Shetlands for four days would have been financial suicide! At least that’s what I figured out after doing a bit of research about how to get there. But I have always wanted to visit Scotland. So this seemed to be a great opportunity – Orkney, Shetland – not easy to be reached, but now I had a reason! Slowly, I started working out a route from Edinburgh. There were lots of places I had wanted to see for a long time already. Stirling Castle i.e., Oban, Fort Williams, the Western Isles, the whisky distilleries.

In the end I had to make some hard decisions what to do this time – and what to do the next time I’ll come to Scotland – for return I will, for sure! Not even driving on the left can hold me back …

After having started to work out the route and where to stay on the way, I asked my dear collegue Yvonne Wuestel if she would like to to come along. Shared happiness is always double fun! Luckily, she agreed – that was the beginning of our unforgettable adventure.

First of all we were stunned by the Scottisch landscape! Who said Scotland was bare and rough? We experienced it as lush, with an exploding nature, incredibly green and opulent. Of course we were lucky – obviously this has been a very special summer, much warmer than in the last decades. No rain either. Nevertheless, nature is beautiful there! The misty blue mountains looming behind the lakes, seeming to materialise right out of them, they never failed to take my breath away. Slowly we worked our way towards our destination – Shetland Noir!

The people we met, the places we saw – they fill our hearts with gratitude. Every single mile along our journey was special in some way.

After a much too short nightstop at Kirkwall the ferry took us to Lerwick. We had just been able to see the standing stones and getting a quick information of their (possible) origin(s).

Then Lerwick. Marsali picked us up at the ferry terminal. Even though she had a lot to do, being one of the people in charge of organising the whole event. We had a nice breakfast together at the Café Fjarå. Afterwards we went on a tour on our own and even saw puffins at close range. Thousands of seagulls as well. In the evening we were invited on a tour with fellow authors to explore Lerwick, starting with the best fish and chips in town, possibly in the whole UK. The evening ended with a wee dram of whisky and live music in a pub.

Yvonne and I were completely taken by the friendliness of the people. So much so that Yvonne decided to get a tattoo of the Scottish thistle. She has some tattoos already and therefore the idea was understandable – and I followed suit. I got a smaller version of the thistle as well, my first (and probably last) tattoo. At the most northerly tattoo studio of GB … It will always remind me of the wonderful time we had.

Shetland Noir was full of interesting people, buzzing with life. But most of all, they were a lot of nice people. We met fellow authors from all over the world, librarians etc. We also visited some panels, took part in a workshop and listened to Val McDermid being interviewed. And very bravely we tried black pudding at the reception…

Shetland Noir is already special just because of the setting. A really remarkable landscape. And Mareel, the culture-centre and cinema where everything happened, is a very modern complex with large windows  overlooking the harbour. The festival itself reminded us a lot of our yearly gathering of Mörderische Schwestern. People coming together connected by the passion for crime writing. And reading of course.

Sharing this passion is more important than where somebody comes from. The latter is completely irrelevant.

It was a beautiful feeling of togetherness and a great experience. 

Carola Christiansen was born – and still lives – in Hamburg, northern Germany. Working for a German airline made it possible for her to travel all around the world. She lived in Hongkong, Luxemburg, Denmark and Venice/Italy. After quitting work she began her new life as a professional author and is now writing under the device: Spannung made in Altona - Suspense made in Altona (a part of Hamburg). For three years she was the President of the network Mörderische Schwestern

 Photos: Carola Christiansen ©SaschaLueken. all others ©CarolaChristiansen

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