4.11.2014

The Lewis Man, by Peter May

The Lewis Man
Fin Macleod returns to the Isle of Lewis, for good this time, in Peter May's The Lewis Man. There's nothing left for him in mainland Scotland. His divorce has been finalized. He quit his job with the Edinburgh police. Of course, he can't leave his past behind as easily as he turned in his resignation. He still obsessively goes over the case file of the fatal hit-and-run that killed his son and he's just begun restoring the family croft. Fin isn't the only one haunted by the past in this book. His almost father-in-law, Tormod Macdonald, is sliding deeper and deeper into Alzheimer's and dementia just as a body is found in a bog not far from Stornoway. The body and Tormod share DNA.

Fin doesn't have an official right to investigate. But because Tormod is the father of Fin's first love, he decides to look into the matter before a police investigator comes over from the mainland to solve the murder. The body has been in the bog for more than 50 years. All they know is that he was related to Tormod in someway and that he was an Elvis fan. That's all Fin and his former college, George Gunn, have to go on. They know Tormod will be the main (and probably only) suspect. Because of Tormod's advanced Alzheimer's, they can't get a straight answer out of him. Tormod is adrift in time, recounting in snatches episodes from his past.

May divides his book into two narrative threads. Fin has one. Through him we follow the clues to uncover Tormod's mysterious past. Tormod tells the other thread in the first person. From the old man, we immediately learn that Tormod isn't who he says he is. In his memories, everyone calls him Johnny. He had a brother named Peter who suffered a brain injury. They are orphans who are send first to a strict orphanage before the Catholic Church ships them off to faithful members in the Outer Hebrides after an accident causes the death of another boy. The details of Tormod's early life are still fuzzy until Fin starts to piece things together.

Eriskay. Photo by Marco Dado Foto.
Even though the body in the bog was murdered so many decades ago, its discovery reignites an old quest for vengeance that comes to a surprising climax on the island of Eriskay. Tormod tried so hard to escape his past and his bad memories that it's heartbreaking to see it all catch up to him now, when he's forgotten so much.

I enjoyed the first Fin Macleod book, The Black House, but I liked The Lewis Man even more. It may be that the Isle of Lewis doesn't seem as foreign to me this time around. Maybe its because I saw Fin start to come out of his shell and live again after his sorrows in Edinburgh.

I wonder what revelations wait in the last book in the series.

I received a free review copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair review.

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