Going berserker

This is my review of The Chessmen (The Lewis Trilogy Book 3) by Peter May.

The chessmen of the title are a reference to the medieval pieces carved by Norsemen mainly from walrus ivory and discovered on Lewis in the C19.

Peter May continues the winning formula of his vivid portrayal of the Outer Hebrides, battered by the elements, suffused with continually changing light, the source of strange legends and a rich but little-known social history. How is it that we have heard of the Tay Bridge disaster in which about 60 people died, but not of the wreck of the Iolaire which caused the death of more than 200 men who survived World War 1 only to perish on the rocks of their native island of Lewis? And I was prepared to suspend my disbelief over the disappearance of a loch in the opening chapter, since I knew that May must have researched examples of this occurrence.

The final part of a trilogy which leaves enough scope for at least another in the series, sees ex-policeman Fin returned to Lewis to live with his long-suffering childhood sweetheart Marsaili. His job to oversee security for a local estate brings him into troubled contact with poacher Whistler, the best friend from his youth whom we never knew he had. Further drama is supplied by the discovery of the murdered corpse of the former local pop star who also dominated another part of Fin's early life of which we have not heard before. Herein lies the problem of a series which, rather than move forward with fresh adventures, is rooted in flashbacks to recall the past. Some unfamiliar characters and new plot lines seemed to override and confuse my perception of Fin's early life, presumably in order to support the latest book.

Despite this, and the implausibility of some key aspects of the denouement, which is a feature of most thrillers, May produces an imaginative story which becomes ever more gripping as he builds up to the dramatic and unpredictable twists of the final chapters. He is better than most popular thriller writers at creating flawed characters for which one can feel some empathy, although I wish his "romantic" passages were a bit less corny.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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