Author: Peter May
Why did I read it? I had listened to the first in the Lewis trilogy, “The Blackhouse” and wanted to read, well listen to more.
What’s it about? Fin McLeod returns to the Isle of Lewis, his childhood home, having dissolved his marriage, and abandoned his career in the Edinburgh police force. Fin arrives just days after a body has been found in the peat bog on Lewis during the cutting. Initially thought to be an ancient burial, the discovery of an Elvis tattoo on the body indicates a more recent, brutal murder. As DNA samples were taken during a murder investigation the year before, a DNA sample from the bog body is compared samples still on the register; and a match is found linking the body to the dementia-suffering father of Fin’s childhood sweetheart, Marasaili. How can a 50 year old murder be solved, when the truth is buried deep in the muddled thoughts of an elderly man now losing his mind?
What did I like? I’m going to start with the character of Tormod Macdonald, Marasaili’s father. I cannot imagine how Peter May set about writing from the point of view of someone tormented by dementia, but in Mr. Macdonald, he produced a character, and mind set that felt authentic. Mr. Macdonald was not only sympathetically and sensitively written, but also read with a level of delicacy by Peter Forbes, who gave Mr. Macdonald’s thoughts a softer, slower voice. Many chapters in “The Lewis Man” are devoted to the memories of Tormod’s earlier life, and these are written with a clarity that is missing from his more recent reminiscences, which reflects opinion on how dementia affects sufferers. Listening to these chapters, I felt the frustration and pain of Mr. Macdonald as he found his current situation confusing, and upsetting.
As before, all the characters were well written, including the islands themselves. Just as he did in “The Blackhouse“, Peter May describes the Hebridean islands as though they are living, breathing characters, too. Having travelled to Harris and Lewis myself, the images were easily conjured in my mind’s eye from his words, and recognition of certain places flickered, too. At its heart, though, “The Lewis Man” is a mystery, and a good mystery novel at that. Some foreshadowing was obvious: once or twice, I found myself talking to a character in the iPod calling them “a bloody idiot“, but not in such polite language; as I could see where it was all heading. “The Lewis Man” flits back and forth from (mostly Tormod’s) past to present, presenting a unique puzzle, especially as most of the clues are wrapped in a disjointed mind, but this makes the story that much more interesting.
Although part of a trilogy, “The Lewis Man” can be read as a stand-alone novel, as Peter May has kindly inserted enough background for readers to continue with the story, but without divulging all the secrets to be found in “The Blackhouse“.
The narration by Peter Forbes was excellent, with only the slightest wobble on two occasions where characters lost their unique voices, and/or patterns of speech – these instances occurred during intense conversations. I cannot imagine it is easy for one narrator to voice so many characters, but Mr. Forbes made it sound easy, slipping from a soft, Scottish lilt to a cut English accent easily.
The audio edition of “The Lewis Man” was split into two parts, both of which were clear and without fault.
What didn’t I like? I cannot think of single thing.
Oh, wait. Yes I can! The third book in the trilogy isn’t out yet.
Would I recommend it? Yes, but with the caveat that, ideally, “The Blackhouse” be read, or listened to first.