Book review: "Entry Island" by Peter May
Sunday 12 January 2014
Author Peter May is masterful at making a little go a long way. His acclaimed Lewis trilogy spun three tales of murder and mystery from the unpromising prospects afforded by the Outer Hebrides. In Entry Island, May once again mines this rich Hebridean seam for nuggets; the only difference being that the crime is in the distant past, during the notorious clearances in which profit-hungry landlords brutally removed settled communities from their estates in the Highlands and Islands to replace them with sheep.
Fast forward more than a century and a half, and a team of murder squad detectives fly from Montreal to the Magdalen islands which sit in the teeth of Canada’s Atlantic coast between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Among their number is Detective Sime Mackenzie. Mackenzie is odd-man out in the team, having been co-opted at the last minute as a native English speaker required to interview the main suspect in a murder case – the English speaking wife of a wealthy businessman stabbed to death by an intruder.
Mackenzie is also ill at ease because the team also includes his wife, a forensics expert, from whom he is acrimoniously separated. The split has left him with chronic insomnia to a point where he falls asleep, mid-interrogation, at one point.
What follows is a Gordian-knotted plot which sees Mackenzie conflicted about whether the chief suspect is truly the perpetrator, or a victim herself. The conflict is exacerbated by knife edge tensions among the investigators themselves.
The inside of Mackenzie’s head, struggling as it does to grasp what precisely it is about the murder that does not fit, would be sufficiently claustrophobic even without the sleeplessness casting a neon-lit, migraine-inducing glare. To this, May adds a saga of families forced from their homes for a new life of supposed opportunity in the New World. Both lines weave together, as elegantly as any Celtic knot, until May ties both ends off. The final result is a fascinating glimpse into a shameful and frequently overlooked aspect of British history. The author has followed the ties that spread out from the Hebrides to the strong Scottish Gaelic-speaking communities on North America’s eastern seaboard and used them to embellish a modern murder mystery. At times the material looks as thin as the hard soils of the islands many of the emigrants left behind, but May’s patient plaiting results in a richer tale than one might first suspect.
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sean Abbott: Messages of support flood in for bowler following death of batsman Phil Hughes
- 2 Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
- 3 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 4 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 5 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
This house and dental clinic 'piled up like bricks on the brink of collapsing' is why Japan wins at architecture
'I just want to get home and watch Match of the Day': The Specials frontman Terry Hall admits the agony of being in an aging rock band during gig
Exodus Gods and Kings: Ridley Scott never considered casting 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'