Fin Macleod has just lost his eight-year-old son to a hit-and-run and his marriage is falling apart. He leaves Edinburgh to get away from this tragedy, but also to investigate a brutal murder on the Isle of Lewis where he grew up.
Back on Lewis, he is confronted by much more than a mutilated corpse: painful memories and relationships come to the fore.
In the end, his stay in a blackhouse, a rudimentary shelter, while he and a group of men take an annual bird-hunting trip far out on a tiny island in the sea, provides the clue to both the murder and to untangling the messy relationships he’s rekindled.
What makes these novels stand out in the murder mystery genre is that Fin Macleod, the detective (and later ex-detective) must delve deep into the past to untangle the crime which leads him to resolve long-buried personal problems as well. The resolution of the one is intricately linked to the other.
To deal with the big jumps from past to present, May uses two narrative voices. For the present time he has a third person past-tense narrator, and for the past he uses a first person present-tense narrator. And he doesn’t tell you who the first person narrator is—he leaves you to figure it out. Just brilliant.
Perhaps the French loved his first books because May is such a master of setting. If all you’ve known is the relatively balmy climate of France, the wilds winds, rain and waves of Scotland’s far north seem exotic and exciting.
Highly recommended for their structure, storyline and setting, though I found May’s criticism of the church and pastors cliché.
In order to slow down my frenetic book-eating, I'm writing reviews of the books I read to better digest them. Bon appétit!