The books that made up the Lewis trilogy: The Black House, The Lewis Man and The Chess Men by Peter May were a fascinating glimpse into life on a remote Scottish community. A combination of the bleak but evocative setting and intriguing and thought-provoking subject matter gave the series a legion of fans. May has now written a new standalone crime novel, Entry Island, which draws on some of the themes of his previous books.
Detective Sime Mackenzie is sent to Entry Island, a remote community 850 miles off the mainland Canadian coast. A wealthy inhabitant of the island has been murdered and the obvious suspect is the dead man’s wife, Kirsty Cowell, who was found with blood on her clothes. Mackenzie is accompanied by a French speaking team from Montreal that includes his former wife. At Entry Island he suspects that events are far more complicated than they originally seemed although his judgement becomes clouded by a shocking discovery about the break-up of his marriage, and signs that he and the Kirsty share a common ancestry.
Moving the setting to a remote Canadian community was a wise move for May. It breathes fresh life into his writing while allowing many of the themes he likes to explore, such as secrets from the past that carry through to the present, to be revisited. There were a couple of times when I thought I was reading the same story as the Lewis trilogy. Sime’s parents, for example, are killed in an accident which is reminiscent of Fin Macleod’s tragic history. May excels in split narratives although, in this book, I did prefer the present day murder hunt to the slightly extraneous story of Kirsty and Sime’s ancestors. The hunt for the killer on Entry Island is a classic murder mystery with a decent list of suspects and a satisfying conclusion.
My resolution this year is to read more standalone crime novels as I’m getting a little tired of series, although there are some that I’ll read the latest addition anyway. This was an excellent start to my ‘standalone resolution’.
Thanks to Quercus for my review copy.