Friday, 10 October 2014

The Lewis Man by Peter May

The second book in a trilogy can often be disappointing, lacking the impetus that drives the first book’s plot, and needing to leave something up in the air to keep the reader keen for the third. Peter May’s Lewis trilogy avoids this pitfall, giving ex-copper Fin McLeod a new crime and another personal dilemma to deal with in The Lewis Man.

The story centres on the discovery of a body in a peat bog, so well preserved it looks like it could be an ancient find, of more interest to archaeologists than criminologists. But an Elvis Presley tattoo soon chalks this one up as a cold case, and a DNA match connects the body with Mr McDonald, the father of Fin’s childhood sweetheart, Marsaili.

Fin has returned to stay on Lewis Island, with a plan to rebuild his parent’s house, but is soon caught up in the case, fearful that a crew of police from the mainland will descend on Mr McDonald, who is now suffering from dementia. It all sets off a sequence of memories for Mr McDonald, and the plot see-saws back to the past, and his childhood of deprivation and children’s homes.

As Fin tries to rebuild relationships with Marsaili and his recently discovered son, events from the past threaten to catch up with the present and the story builds towards a dramatic ending. While there is a satisfying mystery here, May enriches his story with his sensitivity around the issues surrounding memory loss, his evocation of the 1950s and the miserable treatment of orphans.

It all adds up to another powerful novel set on the marvellous, windswept and tussocky island of Lewis - surely this is just begging for a TV adaptation.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: The Lewis Man

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