Friday, 11 July 2014

Entry Island by Peter May

Reviewer: Catriona Troth, author of Ghost Town

What we thought: I was a massive fan on Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy, and most especially of the brilliantly constructed middle book of the series, Lewis Man. I love the way he weaves together a modern-day crime story with the history and social fabric of the Hebrides. And his descriptions of the landscapes and ever-changing weather of the islands make me feel as if I am right there among the heather and the blackhouses.

So I was very excited when I heard that he had a new book coming out – and even more excited when I learnt that the story would also take me back across the Atlantic Ocean, to the parts of Canada where Scottish, Acadie and Quebecois culture bump up against one another in patterns almost unchanged since the days of the early pioneers.

Entry Island brings to life the story of the Highland Clearances, a time when ruthless landlords forced crofters off the land to make room for more profitable sheep, and families were transported in appalling conditions across the sea to make a new life in Canada.

In the present day, one of the descendents of these displaced Highlanders is now a detective with the francophone Sûreté de Québec. When a murder is committed on one of a string of tiny islands in the mouth of the St Lawrence which, though part of Quebec, has remained stubbornly anglophone, Sime (pronounced Sheem) is sent as interpreter and interviewer. But the wife of the deceased is oddly familiar to him – and even more strangely, she possesses a pendant which is an exact match for the signet ring he inherited.

May skilfully weaves together the diaries of Sime’s forebear, dimly remembered from a time when his grandmother would read aloud from them, with the battle to solve a crime where all the evidence seems to point to the strange, rather ethereal woman to whom he feels inexplicably connected.

This is a both a sophisticated mystery in an unusual setting, and a powerful piece of historical fiction that tells a shameful story too little known.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Peter May’s Lewis trilogy, Gillian Hamer’s Anglesey crime series, any crime novels with a strong sense of place and history

Avoid if you dislike: blending crime novels with historical fiction.

Ideal accompaniments: A storm outside with a view of the sea, a good glass of whisky inside

Genre: crime fiction, historical fiction

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