Hot Chocolate & A Handful of Ash

by Elizabeth Atia -

There's been a murder!

Cass Lynch, liveaboard skipper and amateur sleuth is busy at the marine college in Scalloway until, one night, she finds an acquaintance dead in a doorway. The victim's hand is smeared with peat ash.

Rumours spread of a strange ritual linked to the witches once burned in Shetland's ancient capital, of horned figures abroad in the night, and the townsfolk are behaving strangely...

...and then there is another murder.

Last night in the atmospheric twilight-lit ruins of Scalloway castle, Shetland-based crime writer Marsali Taylor launched the third book in her Cass Lynch mystery series: A Handful of Ash.

Marsali is a well known Shetland writer, having written for the popular Shetland Life magazine since 2003. She is very keen on drama and has written over thirty plays for young people in both English and Shetland dialect. She also makes regular contributions to the weekly Shetland Times newspaper.

Her first published crime novel, Death on a Longship, was released in 2012. This was followed by The Trowie Mound Murders (2014).

The launch of A Handful of Ash began in the morning, with Marsali literally 'launching' a signed copy of her book into the North Sea from her sailing vessel. Who knows where the current might take it?

Later that evening, fellow members of the Westside Writers' Group, friends, family and book lovers gathered in the great hall of the Scalloway Castle ruins to hear Marsali read from her book. One of the passages she read described a chilling scene set in the castle itself; the audience scanned the crumbling walls and windows as she read, our imaginations filled with the images created by Marsali.

Afterwards we set off up the hill to the Scalloway Museum for a very enjoyable reading by the Westside Writers' Group, to purchase our own copies of the new book (and get them signed!) and for hot chocolate. The recipe for the hot chocolate is by the popular Norwegian cook and food writer Andreas Viestad, and features in Marsali's novel. Cass Lynch herself drinks it while on board her Norwegian friend Anders' vessel.

"He handed me a tall mug entirely hidden by a swirl of cream, with what looked like two marmalade strands for decoration. 'This will help.''It will,' I agreed. My nose tip touched the cream as I tried to drink from the cup. I gave up, and resorted to a spoon. It was delicious, chocolate with a tangy hint of orange, frothed to a smooth cream. A mug of this, and I'd take on a dozen covens single-handed."

- A Handful of Ash by Marsali Taylor (2014)

Published by Accent Press A Handful of Ash can be purchased from The Shetland Times bookshop, various village shops throughout Shetland, online at and or as an eBook from Waterstones.

Marsali can be found on Facebook.

Hot Chocolate

Course: Main

Servings: 2 people

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

  • Dark chocolate - 140 grams (broken into small pieces)
  • Shetland Dairies milk - 375 ml
  • Whipping cream - 120 ml
  • Orange marmalade - 1 tbsp
  1. Gently heat milk and chocolate in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has melted.
  2. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and gently fold in the marmalade.
  3. Pour the hot chocolate into a mug and top with a spoonful of the whipped cream.
  4. Garnish with two strands of orange rind from the marmalade and serve immediately.
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