Every time I come away from a Peter May book I always find that I have taken some information from it that I didn’t know before. He always manages to create a subtle mixture of fiction and historical fact. May likes to wade in the complicated layers of genealogy and family dynamics. In The Lewis Man he creates a fascinating crime with a hefty layer of emotions and family secrets.
It isn’t that uncommon for grandparents or parents to keep certain parts of their lives completely secret from their children or grandchildren. It might be because the pain and memories are hard to bear or perhaps the secrets are kept to keep the next generations safe.
In this case Fin Macleod’s baby mama finds out that her father isn’t who she thought he was. The body of a young man has been discovered in a peat bog. Perfectly preserved, and a DNA match to Tormod MacDonald.
May has the reader wander between the past and the present. Following young Tormod before he became Tormod, and the old Tormod to try to discover who killed the bog boy. It isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, because Tormod is suffering from dementia, so retrieving information from his muddled brain becomes quite difficult.
I liked the way May integrated the dementia story into the mystery. He shows the difficulty, the pain, the emotional upheaval and the complete desperation of all the people involved. There is no candy coating of some of the more harsh reactions to the disease, which is an honest and realistic approach to the issue.
Once again May also highlights dark mistakes made in certain eras that tend to be swept under the carpet. The displacement, relocation, dumping and mistreatment of orphan children, who were scattered in large numbers over the Scottish Isles.
As always it was a very good read.
I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss, courtesy of the publisher.
Read more about the first book in this series The Blackhouse.