review · Scotland

The Lewis Man by Peter May

lewis manThe Lewis Man by Peter May

Quercus, September 2014

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

The Lewis Man, the second in the Lewis trilogy, is set in the westernmost of the Outer Hebrides. It’s a sort of police procedural. One of the main characters, Fin McLeod, returns to the Isle of Lewis and unofficially investigates the murder of a man found somewhat preserved in the peat bogs. It sounds like an Elly Griffiths novel, but the story doesn’t dwell too much on forensic archaelogy. The mystery of the deceased is an important element of the story, but the story of Fin and his old girlfriend’s Marsaili’s father, suffering from advanced dementia and remembering his childhood, are the main elements of the story. While the first book in the trilogy focused on Fin’s childhood, this installment focuses on the childhood of someone from his parents’ generation.

The murder investigation doesn’t feel like the center of the story because May spends so much time on the characters childhoods on the island. He touches on how religion has worked in the last fifty years on the island and beyond, and its shameful part of the care of orphans and children from broken homes. Both books in the trilogy so far have been harrowing because of the harsh setting, the murders, and the heartbreaking childhoods of their main characters.

One side note: this particular entry in the series does not make me want to visit the Isle of Lewis: lashing rain, fierce winds, and cold do not sound appealing to me. Maybe the third installment in the series makes a better case for visiting. Regardless of the harsh scenery, I enjoyed this story.

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11 thoughts on “The Lewis Man by Peter May

  1. So good to get your take on this, Rebecca. I have to agree with you that May gives a very atmospheric, if dismal, picture of Lewis. I like the sense of history in the series, too, and as you point out, it plays a key role. Thanks for the fine review.

  2. I saw that May put together a coffee table book of photos of Lewis, which has to be more picturesque than the time-frame this particular book covered– maybe that explains the travel contest the publisher is running πŸ™‚ I liked the history as well because all I knew about the Outer Hebrides before I read the series was a little bit about knitting patterns.

  3. I think the picture of Lewis in this book is all too accurate. I remember once seeing a job advert for the Islands which specifically stated that all applicants must be able to cope with harsh weather conditions all year round, particularly driving winds! I decided not to apply…

    1. Interesting point. There are some memorable scenes involving Fin trying to camp while restoring his parents’ house that I forgot to mention in my post– those definitely turned me off.

  4. This is encouraging. I have not read the first one and I thought all three had been published in the US already. Now I see I am not so far behind. Have you read any of the author’s other series or standalone books?

    1. No, Tracy- I’ve only read the first two in the Lewis trilogy. I haven’t been reading too quickly lately either so I’m not sure when I’ll have time to get to his other books.

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