Storm-lashed islands where all happened once

This is my review of The Lewis Man (The Lewis Trilogy) by Peter May.

Understandably troubled by his son's death in a hit-and-run accident, Fin divorces his wife, retires from the police and returns to his childhood home of the Hebridean isle of Lewis to restore his ruined family croft. His arrival coincides with the discovery in a peat bog of the well-preserved body of a young man who just happens to have the same DNA as Tormod Macdonald, father of Fin's former lover Marsaili, and so the plot thickens.

Apart from a few corny dialogues and the fact that I guessed fairly easily some of the main points in the denouement, this is a tightly plotted and often exciting tale, with some genuinely moving aspects, such as the plight of a vigorous old man who is sinking into dementia.

As in "The Blackhouse", first novel in the trilogy, Peter May creates a vivid sense of the Hebridean Islands, from Lewis in the North down to Eriskay in the south, now linked by causeways and ferries. He conveys an idea of the ever present wind and the sheer scale of the largely treeless landscape, sometimes hidden in mist or driving range, occasionally a peaceful idyll beneath a clear blue sky, more often with the sun breaking through the clouds to cast shifting patterns over the moors, or to brighten a far strip of beach or the sea.

I was interested to learn of the practice of sending Catholic orphans from the mainland to provide cheap labour for childless crofters. The device of revealing the past through Tormod's memories, so much clearer than his confused perception of the present is also skilfully handled.

I noticed the strong similarities between the plot of this novel and "The Blackhouse". Without giving too much away, we see themes of orphaned children, subject to bullying and prone to agree to stupid dares, people falling to their death from high places, paeodophiles abusing positions of trust, and characters twisted by grief who seek revenge by trying to wreak on others the pain they have suffered. Yet there is also enough that is "different" in the "The Lewis Man", which seems to me to have a slightly more plausible and satisfying plot.

I believe that, a former journalist, May has incorporated real characters like Bill Lawson of the Seallam Visitor Centre, together with descriptions of actual places. I spent some time googling to check these out. I just hope that the books do not attract such a wave of tourists to these islands that the single tracks road become congested, and the wild beauty of the isolated beaches lost.

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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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