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June 2014 travel news 45
by Peter May
Peter May recently distinguished himself
with his three crime novels, the Lewis
Trilogy. His most recent book, ‘Entry Island’,
is set in Canada but frequently returns us to
the islands of the Outer Hebrides.
The story has two plots running parallel. In
the present day, Detective Sime Mackenzie,
as part of an investigation team, travels to a
remote island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to
probe a violent murder. He meets the victim’s
wife Kirsty and immediately feels sure that
he knows her. She is the prime suspect in
a crime that seems to have little rhyme or
reason. The island has a tiny population
where there has been no incidence of even
the smallest crime in years, so who other than
Kirsty herself could have been responsible?
Sime, despite increasing evidence of
Kirsty’s guilt, becomes convinced that she
Sime, who suffers acute insomnia, the
aftermath of a failed marriage, starts to
dream, reliving his pioneer ancestor’s diaries
describing how his family and many others
were evicted from their Highland properties
and shipped under appalling conditions
to Canada in the mid nineteenth century.
Sime’s grandmother had read the diaries
to him in his childhood. Their contents
comprise the other plot, centred on the
Highland Clearances, accelerated by the
potato famine when tenants could not raise
rent for their properties. It is a brutal time
houses burnt and possessions destroyed
by ‘the law’ while tempers run high. Sime’s
ancestor, also a Sime Mackenzie, falls in
love with another Kirsty, daughter of the
nefarious landlord behind the Clearances.
They escape from the islands together.
It’s a bit ‘fey’ – second sight, déjà vu and all
that – and if it were not May handling the
plot, the book might have been a disaster.
Nor is it a narrative that will appeal to
everyone, as it frequently hops to and fro
from one century to almost two hundred
years later, often causing impatience when
one trend grows more interested than the
other, usually the present day one.
On the plus side, the murder case is cleverly
constructed and the conclusion brilliant.
May’s style of writing is a joy to read.
Unlike some of his popular crime writer
contemporaries’ efforts, it was rewarding
to find that the novel is complete in itself,
as were each of the earlier Lewis books
comprising the trilogy, and not left in that
despicable ‘to be continued’ vein.
by Tim Walker
Why review such an unsatisfactory book?
Just in the hope that if you are over 50 or
thereabouts you may be spared reading
it. The contemporary novelist reflects the
society about which he writes, as did Dickens
in Oliver Twist. God save London if these
Walkeresque descriptions are true - the
ultimate nightmare, especially about those
who own unoccupied property. Admittedly
he writes with a cynical humour, but laid
on thick and rather unnecessarily graphic
occasionally, it is so distasteful that surprise-
surprise it leaves a bad taste. If you are
more than halfway towards your personal
millennium, you may not understand much
of the vocabulary – sad, because the
dictionary does not contain the words with
which you’re unfamiliar.
A young couple buy a house in Highgate.
Gerry, ‘in advertising’ is a DIY enthusiast
and successfully undertakes alterations to
create the home they want. His wife Pen
produces two children, Isobel and Conrad,
and writes a popular series of children’s
books, ‘The House on the Hill’, about their
An ideal scene but as time goes by, the family
disintegrates, Gerry and Pen remarry, while
now grown up Isobel marries. Her husband’s
work takes them to ‘an Emirate’ and into an
abysmal social life of pointless whirl, doing
what everyone else does. Conrad lives in a
squat and wonders what to do next.
Isobel with little to do and an au pair who
takes over everything including her infant
twins, becomes obsessed with her ‘virtual’
farming game online – another horrid
warning here for inane pursuits that become
Back in Highgate, the house on the
hill has lain empty for years, with only
occasional occupation. ‘Mates’ of Conrad’s
commandeer it, and as squatters cannot be
evicted except by expensive legal means.
This decidedly dubious group turn it into an
alleged community centre. A house-warming
party is given, attended as these functions
seem to be, by guests and gatecrashers
alike. Matters quickly become out of control,
coinciding with the moment when Gerry and
Pen arrive simultaneously, having decided
to sell the house and divide the profits.
The completion chapters of ‘Completion’
are rather an anticlimax after the sound and
fury of the earlier events. Possibly Walker
decides that all’s well that ends well, but it
is neither a conclusive nor a satisfactory
finale, and all in all, comes over as a sad
book about equally sad people who have
lived unfulfilled lives.
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