Gwen Moffat, born in Brighton, Sussex in 1924, became the first professional female mountain guide in the UK. Her travels in the field provided settings for her crime novels set in the Alps, the Rockies and deserts of the U.S., and the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides. She has thrown that same pioneering gusto into her research in the past, working cattle on a Montana ranch for her novel Grizzly Trail or living in a house in the Mojave Desert for Last Chance Country.
In addition to her thirty-five novels, travel books and her autobiography, Space Below My Feet, Moffat has written short stories, such as the Holmes pastiche "The Adventure in Border County: Holmes and Watson visit Cumberland at Xmas." She's also been a broadcaster and written article for newspapers on mountain climbing, travel and camping, as well as crime fiction reviews for Shots Magazine.
Moffat's first-hand experiences with mountain climbing are at put to obvious use in her novel Miss Pink at the Edge of the World. On a Scottish stack (i.e.a column of rock isolated from a shore by the action of waves) called the Old Man of Scamadale, two climbers die rather mysteriously. One of them, Trevor Stark, is a famous and much-hated TV celebrity who was scouting the area for a program, complete with boats and helicopters, against the wishes of the local laird (landowner) who avoided publicity and wanted to keep tourists away. The local police believe the deaths were accidents until the laird and his fellow climbers convince the police the two men were murdered—and promptly become the prime suspects since they alone had the expertise to pull off the crime.
Moffat got the idea for the plot from a conversation she overheard at Kyleakin Inn on Skye, overlooking Loch Alsh, where someone exclaimed, "The Killers is in!", showing a sharp grasp of ideas and their possibilities which the author also embued in her primary protagonist, Miss Melinda Pink. Miss Pink is politically incorrect, but at the same time feels herself drawn into cases of injustice and abuse, from trafficing in endangered species, to incest, to IRA terrorists. She's a middle-aged writer-magistrate-sleuth, a woman of "imposing presence" who also possesses keen skills of observation and perceptions of human nature and life:
As she undressed she reflected that cannabis had similar effects to alcohol: it was an intoxicant which prompted its dependents to unburden themselves. She wondered if the girl would regret her loquacity in the morning, but then there would be another cigarette to dull uneasy memories...She didn't think that it was a curious coincidence to find tragedy in a remote Highland inn; she was the kind of person people needed to talk to, and she knew only too well that horror was not a matter of place but of people.
Moffat is at her best with her descriptions of the solitary and atmospheric landscapes, as in this scene:
Westwards, she saw the bay that was called Calava demarcated by splendid headlands jutting into the pale and shining sea. The northern point was several hundred feet high, that to the south was dwarfed by another behind it which matched the neighbor across the bay. She stared in an enchantment that had nothing to do with climbing; she could admire a cliff for its lines unassociated with the quality of the rock. There were skerries and rocky islands, and in that brilliant but silent world the seascape had an air of unreality. It was like the coastline of Valhalla.
The author, who celebrates her 90th birthday this year, currently lives in the Lake District of the UK and doesn't write much these days. Her most recent novel was Gone Feral in 2007, although many others are out of print, including Miss Pink at the Edge of the World, last reprinted by the Black Dagger series in 1975.