Category Archives: Lewis trilogy

Review: The Lewis Man by Peter May

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42985_LewisMan_HB:564x240The Lewis Man by Peter May (Quercus, 2012), Lewis Trilogy #2

 

Blurb: The male Caucasian corpse – marked by several horrific stab wounds – is initially believed by its finders to be over two thousand years old. Until they spot the Elvis tattoo on his right arm. The body, it transpires, is not evidence of an ancient ritual killing, but of a murder committed during the latter half of the twentieth century. Meanwhile, Fin Macleod has returned to the island of his birth. Having left his wife, his life in Edinburgh, and his career in the police force, the former detective inspector is intent on repairing past relationships and restoring his parents’ derelict croft. But when DNA tests flag a familial match between the bog body and the father of Fin’s childhood sweetheart, Marsaili Macdonald, Fin finds his homecoming more turbulent than expected. Tormod Macdonald, now an elderly man in the grip of dementia, had always claimed to be an only child without close family.

 

I’ve always wanted to visit the Outer Hebrides. I’m not sure why–the windswept isolation sounds beautiful to me, in a rugged hardscrabble way, and I’d like to see it for myself. Lewis makes a wonderful backdrop for these novels.

As with The Black House, Peter May has written a taut, compelling novel with wonderful characters. Fin Macleod has returned to Lewis, perhaps permanently, and is discovering that the “simple” life he left behind was anything but—in fact it’s a tangled web of conversations that never took place—and trying to find his way in the new life he’s establishing for himself. Now that Fin is finally coming to terms with the death of his son, he tries to establish a relationship with Marsaili, his teenage love, and her son, who is starting his own family. However, Fin is soon drawn into a mystery when a body is found in a bog—and judging from the Elvis tattoo and the stab wounds, the man was murdered. DNA soon links the body to Marsaili’s father, who has dementia.

The story of Tormod Macdonald is handled beautifully, with sensitivity and pathos. The key to solving the mystery of the bog body is locked up in his memories, which he can relive but cannot articulate. His story, revealed a piece at a time, is heartbreaking, all the more so because it’s based on the true stories of children like him.

It’s interesting to me that the titles for both The Black House and The Lewis Man come from the cases under investigation, because the cases are not really the focus of either book. The trilogy’s focus on character relationships and interactions, and broader social issues, is what makes it so compelling.

 

My rating: 5 stars

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Review: The Blackhouse by Peter May

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BlackhouseThe Blackhouse by Peter May (Quercus, 2011)

Blurb: A brutal killing takes place on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland: a land of harsh beauty and inhabitants of deep-rooted faith.

A MURDER. Detective Inspector Fin Macleod is sent from Edinburgh to investigate. For Lewis-born Macleod, the case represents a journey both home and into his past.

A SECRET. Something lurks within the close-knit island community. Something sinister.

A TRAP. As Fin investigates, old skeletons begin to surface, and soon he, the hunter, becomes the hunted.

 

I saw this book and its sequels on a display table in Waterstones and couldn’t pass it up. The cover photo does an excellent job of setting up the book, which is takes place in the bleak, remote Outer Hebrides (off the northwestern coast of Scotland).

Fin Macleod has recently lost his son, and the island functions as the perfect backdrop to Macleod’s grief.  Macleod is sent to Lewis to investigate a murder that bears a striking resemblance to a recent murder in Edinburgh, where he now lives. He finds both solace and further anger in his memories of growing up in this environment—and many of them center on the island’s rite of passage, the guga harvest. Every year, twelve men from Lewis spend a week on the sheer cliffs of Sula Sgeir, hunting gannet chicks. Macleod participated only once, and his memories are hazy—but the disaster that occurred during that year’s hunt has kept him away from Lewis for almost 20 years. Adding to the story’s complexity is the disintegration of Macleod’s marriage and his reunion with old friends—including his first love.

This is a well-written, compelling mystery, and I’m happy that I bought it. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I’ve already bought the other two books.

 

My rating: 5 stars