Entry Island by Peter May
Though he has been writing novels since the 1970s most North American readers did not become familiar with Peter May’s work until his most recent mystery series, The Lewis Trilogy, became available on this side of the pond.
On a trip to the Scottish Highlands and Islands a few years ago, a B&B owner and reader of mystery novels recommended The Blackhouse to me. I read it and wanted to read the next two in the series The Lewis Man and The Chessmen, which I bought and read while travelling. Returning to Canada I discovered that these books were not available here – but they now are. And his publisher is slowly releasing Peter May’s earlier books along with his new ones. There are still a few only available as special orders from the United Kingdom for those really keen to read all of the books by this prolific writer.
One of the newly released titles, now in paperback, is Entry Island This novel has won two major crime writing awards in the United Kingdom and should be
Peter May alternates between a present day investigation and the history of the place in which his story is set. This time we have a murder on Entry Island, a tiny island with only a small population, most are English speaking descendants of Scottish immigrants who settled here a century and a half earlier, forced from their homeland during the Highland Clearances.
Sime Mackenzie is a policeman in Montreal. One of the few Anglophones on his team he is assigned to the case on Entry Island. Sime is recently separated from his wife and colleague, and is suffering from chronic insomnia. The man is a bit of a wreck, to say the least. What little sleep he manages is disturbed by dreams and memories of the diary entries of an ancestor whose name he bears. Read to him by his grandmother during the years of his childhood the scenes described in the diaries become as real to Sime as his working days, clouded by exhaustion and depression.
The case involves a murdered man and his wife, who appears to be the most likely suspect. She also appears to Sime to be someone who is very familiar to him in some way – and he is unable to think rationally about this woman or the investigation.
Peter May’s former career as a television dramatist shows in his novels. They arevery cinematic, and often overly melodramatic. There is no subtlety here, no lovely turn of a phrase or sublime use of words. This is a very straightforward narrative, with lots of action propelling the story from introduction to conclusion. That being said, you may roll your eyes at times, but you keep reading! And after you finish Entry Island, if you’ve not read the Lewis Trilogy you’ll read those, and you’ll be looking for more.