Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Lewis Man

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Lewis Man (Quercus, 2014).

I enjoyed the characterization in this work of detective fiction, but the number of coincidences and dumb decisions by the hero made this, the second novel in a series by Peter May, a disappointment in the end. The protagonist is a retired cop, the former Detective Inspector Fin Macleod, who has lost all of his interest in police work in the wake of his toddler son's death and the end of his marriage. So he retires to his family home on the distant Isle of Lewis, pitches a tent, and looks up an old girlfriend.

So here's what sets everything in motion: a mummified body is found in the peat. Fin is invited to the post-mortem and they learn that the long-dead man is not many hundreds of years dead as thought; he has an amateurish Elvis Presley tattoo from the late 1950s, and he was murdered. DNA matches him as related to Fin's old girlfriend, but her father Tormod, the best chance to help determine who he is, is in the middle stages of senile dementia and cannot communicate to anybody effectively. He has always claimed to be an only child, but this man seems to be his brother.

Through his recollections, for his memories are intact, we learn the old (and lengthy) story of his childhood and his brother, so the reader is given lots of background - though not all of it - while Fin takes on an amateur investigation, hoping to keep the family secrets intact before the state policeman arrives to begin a formal inquiry. Some of the mechanics are fascinating - getting to some of Scotland's remote areas is a very, very lengthy ordeal of ferries and causeways that are underwater during high tide - but as Fin misses out on the obvious identity of a retired actress and makes the almost comically stupid decision to confide in a shady possible source, it feels like May had to bend his story far past the breaking point of the suspension of disbelief. Not recommended.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review. If you'd like to see your books (typically comics or detective fiction) featured here, send me an email.

No comments: