4 January 2015

Review: ENTRY ISLAND, Peter May

  • source: my local library
  • this edition published by Quercus 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-78206-220-2
  • 534 pages
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times raved: "Peter May is a writer I'd follow to the ends of the earth." Now Peter May takes us to a small island off the coast of Quebec with an emotionally charged new thriller, Entry Island.

When Detective Sime Mackenzie boards a light aircraft at Montreal's St. Hubert airfield, he does so without looking back. For Sime, the 850-mile journey ahead represents an opportunity to escape the bitter blend of loneliness and regret that has come to characterize his life in the city.

Traveling as part of an eight-officer investigation team, Sime's destination lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Only two kilometers wide and three long, Entry Island is home to a population of around 130 inhabitants--the wealthiest of which has just been discovered murdered in his home.

The investigation itself appears little more than a formality. The evidence points to a crime of passion: the victim's wife the vengeful culprit. But for Sime the investigation is turned on its head when he comes face to face with the prime suspect, and is convinced that he knows her - even though they have never met.

Haunted by this certainty his insomnia becomes punctuated by dreams of a distant past on a Scottish island 3,000 miles away. Dreams in which the widow plays a leading role. Sime's conviction becomes an obsession. And in spite of mounting evidence of her guilt he finds himself convinced of her innocence, leading to a conflict between the professional duty he must fulfill, and the personal destiny that awaits him.

My Take

There is a fascinating touch of the paranormal as Sime McKenzie brings to life, in his dreams, stories that his grandmother told him that had been recorded in his great-great-great-great grandfather's diaries.  There is a lot of Scottish history, particularly that related to the Highland clearances, the potato famine in the Hebrides and Ireland, and Canadian migration history, told as background to the main investigation. Sime's link to the past is a signet ring with a distinctive crest.

It is a challenging read as the reader has to be alert to the change of voice from Sime's modern voice and the voice of his ancestor nearly one hundred and fifty years before. The author has not used any of the conventions like italics to indicate the second voice, but the clues to the voice come from the setting.

ENTRY ISLAND  is a variant on the "locked room" mystery as the main access to the island is by ferry and dependant on the weather, and it is possible to use a private boat. The residents of the island choose to speak English which is why Sime is chosen to be part of the investigation, despite the fact that it is being led by his French-speaking ex-wife, and the rest of the team are all French speakers. To some extent this makes his fellow investigators, largely not English speakers, likely to see Kirsty Cowell as "weird" and to regard her as guilty of her husband's murder, while Sime is more prone to see her as innocent. Kirsty owns a pendant with a family crest that matches Sime's ring, and he has an uncanny feeling that he has met her before.

One thing I like about Peter May's books is the depth of research evident in the stories.  ENTRY ISLAND is a particularly interesting read because of the way it slips so easily between time frames and cultures.
It is going to be hard for any novel I read this year to top this one.

My rating: 5.0

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jiescribano said...

I look forward to reading it soon, Kerrie.

Kay said...

I have loved Peter May's trilogy set in the Scottish islands. Loved it. So looking forward to reading this one and will watch for it. Think it may be a bit before it is published here in the US. Thanks for sharing about it!!

Margot Kinberg said...

Peter May's awfully talented, Kerrie - glad you liked this one so well.

Susan said...

I found this in a used bookstore before Christmas, and I was so excited I think I let out a squeal. I am trying to read his books in order, even though this isn't part of his Scotland series. I'm so very pleased you enjoyed it so much and gave it a 5! That's a lovely way to begin the new year, isn't it?

Kathy D. said...

So glad that this was such a good read for you. It's been on my TBR list ever since I read about this book.

It's definitely on my TBR list for this year. I want to know more about this history, and combined with a good "locked-island" mystery, what could be better?

Have a great new year, Kerrie, and thank you for continuing to keep up such a fascinating blog.


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