Saturday, 22 April 2017

What Is It About Scottish Islands?

I have just read The Malice of Waves, the third in Mark Douglas-Home’s series featuring his sea detective and oceanographer, Cal McGill. It was a terrific read about a bereft father who has Cal map the tides to help find the son he lost five years before. This case takes a more sinister turn as the anniversary of the disappearance approaches, and he finds himself working again with DS Helen Jamieson.

The island setting of Eilean Dubh in the Outer Hebrides makes for a wonderfully brooding atmosphere, with mistrustful locals and a history of suspicion and bitter feelings. Of course there will be another death before long and emotions run high before the truth finally comes out.

This isn’t the first time McGill’s investigations have taken him to remote Scottish islands, and it reminded me of other novels set in these potentially romantic but all too often challenging locations.

There’s the Lewis trilogy by Peter May, which has another maverick detective – aren’t they always
the best kind? - in this case Edinburgh detective Fin MacLeod, sent to Lewis to investigate a brutal murder in The Blackhouse. Fin has a lot of baggage to do with his childhood on Lewis, and the case brings out a few surprises. Like The Malice of Waves, the wild and stormy location adds to a thrillingly tense ending. There’s enough to enjoy about the scenario for another two books, and once you’ve devoured the first you’ll be eager for The Lewis Man and The Chess Men, which complete the series.

Of course, when it comes to Scottish islands, you can’t overlook Anne Cleeves’ Shetland series featuring police detective Jimmy Perez. This series has been made into a stunning TV series, which is not surprising with its winning combination of likeable characters, gritty and gripping storylines and the beautiful setting of the Shetlands. The first book Raven Black describes Perez’s investigation of a murdered teenager in oddly the same location where a child disappeared eight years before. Perez has his work cut out to turn suspicion away from the local hermit oddball.

All of these series have a lot in common: brooding atmosphere, wild nature, wary locals, just for starters. And all of them are first rate detective fiction, not to be missed.

Posted by JAM

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