The Chessmen is the 3rd book in Peter May's trilogy, set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. I finished this book and immediately felt like going back to the first book, The Blackhouse, and beginning the tale again. I have loved these books, and I'll be sorry to leave the Isle of Lewis and Ex-Detective Inspector Fin McLeod.
After the dramatic conclusion to the 2nd book, The Lewis Man, Fin has taken a job as head of security for a local landowner. While investigating illegal activity, Fin runs across several old buddies, one by the name of Whistler Macaskill. Fin and Whistler were good friends as teenagers when they were both at school in the town of Stornoway. They were also both connected with a local rock band that ended up having great success with their Celtic music.
Whistler and Fin are caught in a serious storm while in the mountains and near a small loch. When the storm is over, they realize that the loch is gone, drained away - a rare 'bog burst'. What is left is a lot of mud and a gruesome discovery of a light airplane with an occupant that is very dead. Both men recognize the plane as one that belonged to another school friend and the leader of the band, Roddy Mackenzie. This plane and Roddy himself had disappeared 17 years before. Fin realizes that he is the only one shocked to find the plane. What did Whistler know about the disappearance and what other secrets has he been keeping?
Each of these books has given us some background into Fin McLeod's life growing up on the Isle of Lewis. The Chessmen reveals his teen years and how events during that time period shaped his decisions. The story goes back and forth from the present to those school days, introducing us to yet more characters from the island and bringing others that we've already met into the narrative. The setting is spectacular and I was fascinated by the descriptions.
Another interesting part concerns the Lewis Chessmen, an actual discovery in the 19th century of 78 chess pieces, probably created in Norway in about the 12th century. These chess pieces play a tangential part in this book as well as inspiring the name.
The story moves at a slower pace for much of the book. I was almost a little disappointed that there were not more "aha!" moments for me. And then I got to the sweet spot. Ah, I thought. There it is. This is why I love Peter May's writing and this set of books. A speech made by Fin toward the end of the book brought tears to my eyes and prompted my desire to pick up the first book and begin again. This is a great trilogy. Highly, highly recommended.