With Chris Ould’s latest novel The Blood Strand published on 16th February 2016 by Titan, I am thrilled to bring you an anecdotal article by Chris telling us about his experience of a ‘ridealong’ with the Faroes police.
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About The Blood Strand
Having left the Faroes as a child, Jan Reyna is now a British police detective, and the islands are foreign to him. But he is drawn back when his estranged father is found unconscious with a shotgun by his side and someone else’s blood at the scene. Then a man’s body is washed up on an isolated beach.
Is Reyna’s father responsible? Looking for answers, Reyna falls in with local detective Hjalti Hentze. But as the stakes get higher and Reyna learns more about his family and the truth behind his mother’s flight from the Faroes, he must decide whether to stay, or to forsake the strange, windswept islands for good.
On Patrol With The Faroe Islands’ Police
A Guest Post from Chris Ould
The southern end of the island of Streymoy has been shrouded in mist since I arrived. There is no breeze. Sometimes the pall seems about to thin out, but then it thickens again as if it’s changed its mind. Not the best conditions, perhaps, to be out in a patrol car with Jóannes, the Faroese police officer who’s let me tag along with him for his shift. We’re certainly not going to see much of Tórshavn and its surroundings.
Fog or mist isn’t a big deal if you live in the Faroe Islands. Nor is the rain or the wind, or snow in the winter. If you’re Faroese you just take what comes. Chances are it’ll be different in a couple of hours, or if you drive twenty kilometres in any direction.
“Let’s go to Kirkjubøur,” Jóannes says. “There might be sunshine.”
He searches for the turn off the ring road and the mist seems even thicker as we head out of town.
I’ve been on ridealongs with the police before, back in Britain and in Texas and Maine, and as a general rule I know nothing will happen. Of course, as a crime writer you hope there’ll be a call to an incident, but that’s not really the point of tagging along with working cops. What I most want is the opportunity to look and to listen; to ask questions like “How many channels on the radio do you use?” and “What do you call those markers on the roadside?”
For me the devil’s in the details I can pick up, but also in the inadvertent information you find out when you get coppers talking about their jobs and their lives. As an old copper once told me, the golden rule for finding things out is ears open, gob shut. You ask a question, then listen to whatever comes from it, because asking a simple question about shift patterns can lead to anything: anecdotes, insights into family life and even whole case histories on a murder.
Coppers, of course, have a degree of innate suspicion when you first start asking them questions, and it can take them a while to thaw out. Most will, though, if you’re open and honest about what you’re doing. They also respond well when I tell them I’m there because I want to get things right. If coppers have one bugbear above all it’s with books, films and TV series where the writers couldn’t be bothered to find out even the basic facts and just made stuff up.
So Jóannes drives on through the fog for a few kilometres and we talk about guns and firing ranges and new regulations. He tells me about his kids’ school hours and we compare British and Faroese attitudes to children being at home on their own.
There’s still no sign of sunshine but then Jóannes gets a call on the radio. It’s in Faroese, naturally, but I know it’s serious by the tone of the voice on the speaker, and from the fact that Jóannes pulls in on the verge. Then he’s off the radio and making a U turn.
“Did something happen?” I ask, although it’s redundant.
Jóannes nods as he switches on the siren and lights. “There’s a report of a man with an axe near a children’s playground,” he says in that unflappable Faroese way. “It may be a situation where I must ask you not to come close.”
“Sure, of course. No problem,” I say.
But all I’m really hoping is that – despite the mist – we can get there before everyone else. After all, despite asking questions, there’s no substitute for seeing an incident unfold at first hand.