Eyes Turned Skywards by Ken Lussey
This novel reflects on the rumours and theories surrounding a number of real-life events, including the death of the Duke of Kent and the aircraft crashes of Short Sunderland W4032 and Avro Anson DJ106.
Wing Commander Robert Sutherland has left his days as a pre-war detective far behind him. Or so he thinks. On 25 August 1942 the Duke of Kent, brother of King George VI, is killed in northern Scotland in an unexplained air crash; a second crash soon after suggests a shared, possibly sinister, cause. Bob Sutherland is tasked with visiting the aircraft’s base in Oban and the first crash site in Caithness to gather clues as to who might have had reason to sabotage one, or both, of the aircraft.
Set against the background of a country that is far from united behind Winston Churchill, and the ever-present threat from the enemy, we follow Bob as he unravels layers of deceit and intrigue far beyond anything he expects.
About the Author
Ken Lussey spent his first 17 years following his family – his father was a Royal Air Force navigator – around the world, a process that involved seven schools and a dozen different postal addresses. He went to Hull University in 1975, spending his time there meeting his wife Maureen, hitch-hiking around Great Britain, and doing just enough actual work to gain a reasonable degree in that most useful of subjects, philosophy. The next step seemed obvious. He researched and wrote A Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to Great Britain, which was published by Penguin Books in 1983. An inexplicable regression into conformity saw him become a civil servant for the next couple of decades, during which time he fulfilled the long-held ambition of moving to Scotland. In more recent times he has helped Maureen establish the website Undiscovered Scotland as the ultimate online guide to Scotland. Eyes Turned Skywards is his first novel.
‘For once you have tasted flight you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will always long to return.’
Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
There was something forbidding about this place. The old keep and the surviving walls were covered in dense ivy. At this time of the evening, even a summer’s evening, there was the sense of a weight of history here that was enough to send shivers down the spine.
Fight Sergeant Peter Jacobs checked his watch again. Gregory hadn’t seemed the sort of man who would be late. But late he was, by 45 minutes. They should have been gone from the castle at least half an hour ago, Gregory in possession of Jacobs’ verbal update, and Jacobs in possession of a forged travel warrant to Glasgow and then to London.
Jacobs flicked the still burning butt of his cigarette over the edge of the long drop. It fell towards the undergrowth at the foot of the cliff, though he lost sight of it well before it came to rest. He cursed the need to be up here. As far as he was concerned, it would have been much safer to meet in plain sight in the town, perhaps a brief encounter on the esplanade or in the railway station. But no, Gregory was the boss and Gregory had said they should meet in the same godforsaken spot as they had on Monday evening, almost exactly three days earlier. Jacob felt he stuck out like a sore thumb here. For that matter, he thought that anyone at all would have stuck out like a sore thumb here.
The location had its compensations. As the sun sank towards the western horizon, it painted that whole side of the sky in a complex pattern of reds and oranges. From here the view was dominated by the Isle of Mull in the distance, with the sun still glinting off the side of Ben More, the island’s highest point.
Closer at hand was the much smaller island of Kerrera, somewhere he had come to know only too well over the past two weeks. In the shelter of the island, to the left as he looked, were a series of large shapes, now in deepening shadow, each tethered to a buoy. Jacobs knew that even when moored and apparently at peace, each flying boat had to be manned, in case the weather changed overnight. It wasn’t a job the men relished. Oban might not have the world’s most exciting nightlife, even without the blackout, but a night in a bobbing aeroplane was much less attractive than a night tucked up in your own bed, or someone else’s.
The sight of the last of the sun’s disk dropping below the horizon reminded Jacobs he still had to descend the steep and narrow path to the road below and then walk back into Oban before it got totally dark. Finding his way in the blackout was not an attractive prospect. He looked at his watch again and tutted. An hour was later than anyone in this game should ever be, unless something had gone badly wrong.