On this storm-lashed island three hours off the north-west coast of Scotland, what little soil exists gives the people their food and their heat. It also takes their dead. And very occasionally, as today, gives one up.
It is a social thing, the peat-cutting. Family, neighbours, children, all gathered on the moor with a mild wind blowing out of the south-west to dry the grasses and keep the midges at bay. Annag is just five years old. It is her first peat-cutting, and the one she will remember for the rest of her life.
I have been enjoying my time visiting Peter May's trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The Lewis Man is narrated by Peter Forbes (who narrates this whole trilogy plus Entry Island). His voice is great and his pronunciation of the difficult Gaelic words is spot on. I also want to say that I'll be moving on to the third book, The Chessmen, next. I've already written about that one here and won't be including another review. If you'd like to see my thoughts, click on the link above.
After the events related in The Blackhouse, Fin Macleod has resigned his job, agreed to a divorce from his wife, and moved to Lewis planning to renovate his parents' old croft. Not long after he arrives, DS George Gunn crosses his path and tells him of a body that's been found in the peat. It appears to have been there for 50 years or so and, more importantly, DNA has shown that the dead man is related to Tormod Macdonald, Marsaili's father. Tormod is suffering from advanced dementia and Marsaili's mother has passed responsibility for him on to her daughter. Since a police investigation into the circumstances of the death is imminent, Fin must step in to assist.
This book is probably my favorite of the trilogy. The story is related in pieces as Fin tries to determine what exactly happened years ago and how Tormod is connected. Tormod himself relates part of the story through memories (his past thoughts are much more coherent than his present day). Dealing with and relating to a person with advanced dementia is tough and very, very poignant. Fin is better able to handle the queries, but it's not easy peeling back the layers of time. And then things get much more dire as a present day threat presents itself. The book comes to a most dramatic and shocking ending. As with the previous book, the setting is vividly described and traditions and customs revealed in interesting ways. Highly recommended.
In The Lewis Man, the second book of the trilogy, Fin Macleod has returned to the Isle of Lewis, the storm-tossed, wind-scoured outer Hebridean island where he was born and raised. Having left behind his adult life in Edinburgh--including his wife and his career in the police force--the former Detective Inspector is intent on repairing past relationships and restoring his parents' derelict cottage. His plans are interrupted when an unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog. The only clue to its identity is a DNA match to a local farmer, the now-senile Tormod Macdonald--the father of Fin's childhood sweetheart, Marsaili--a man who has claimed throughout his life to be an only child, practically an orphan. Reluctantly drawn into the investigation, Fin uncovers deep family secrets even as he draws closer to the killer who wishes to keep them hidden.