Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Lewis Man

The Lewis Man
Peter May
New York, Ner York
ISBN: 978-1-62365-829-9
$ 21.94
368 pages

"When you are young a year is a big part of your life and seems to last for ever.  When you are old, there have been too many of them gone before and they pass all too fast.  We move so slowly away from birth, and rush so quickly to death."

The Isle of Lewis is the largest and northermost island of the Outer Hebrides off the northwestern coast of Scotland.   During the harvest season when the peat fom the bogs is actually cut to be used for heating during the long harsh winters, a body is discovered.  

Being mummified, the first reaction is to bring in archaeologists to date the body.  Peat is an unusual substance in that it stops the body from decaying while preserving it.   The facial features of the dead man are clear enough for others to notice a resemblance to local families. The medical examiner notices multiple stab wounds concluding that death was caused by the victim's throat being cut. Could this have been a human sacrifice from ages ago?

On closer examination, a tattoo is discovered on the victim's arm.   Looking carefully, the tattoo is of Elvis.  Immediately law enforcement realizes that this murder happened in the last fifty years.  How do you identify the owner of the body from fifty years ago?   How do you bring the killer to justice?

Fin McLeod has left behind his life as a detective inspector and is returning to the island to restore his parents' derelict croft and hoping to reconnect with a former love who he believes was the love of his life.   He didn't plan to be involved with this investigation.

DNA reveals that the mummified body is a close relative of his former love's father who is living his final years in the throes of dementia at a retiremens home.  Quickly Fin learns that her father is not the man whose name he has used for fifty years.  Why?  What is the old man hiding?  Who is he?  Could this old man be a killer?  What does he know about the dead man?  How do you discover his secrets?

The Lewis Man is an enthralling novel with a different approach for a mystery.  The movement is slow at first while introducing the characters and their relationships.   Incorporating a background of the isolated and desolate everyday life on Lewis fifty-some years ago brings to light the problems of the time period.  With the Catholic/Protestant conflicts, orphaned children, as well as the problems of the simplistic and constant working of the fields and the bogs these island inhabitants led a hard life.

This book is a reprint of the original published in 2011 and is part of a three book set  The Lewis Trilogy all by Peter May.  The Lewis Man is actually the second novel in this series following The Black House and concluding with The Chessman.   Attached to the trilogy is another photo book also by Peter May entitled Hebrides.

Author Peter May is an award-winning journalist currently residing in France.   He has been the screenwriter for three prime-time British drama series as well as numerous television programs.   He has over fifteen published novels including additional series The Enzo Files and The China Thrillers.   He is the only western author who is an honorary member of the Chinese Crime Writers' Association and has won the Barry and the Crime Thriller Hound Award.

Dark, depressing are both perfect descriptors of The Lewis Man. However, this is unquestionably a superbly written novel which slowly draws the reader into the story in a masterfully creative manner while viewing just a glimpse of a past life in the Outer Hebrides.  

I definitely plan to read the other novels in this trilogy as well as Peter May's other masterpieces.

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