What’s it all about?:
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 characterise his life in the city.
Travelling as part of an eight-officer investigation team, Sime’s destination lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Only two kilometres 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 fulfil, and the personal destiny that awaits him.
What did I think?:
I became a fan of Peter May after reading his Lewis Trilogy so when I was approved for his latest novel Entry Island on NetGalley by Quercus Books, I was very excited so many thanks to them! One of the things I loved most about this book is that it is split into two stories which both have different time frames and are even set in different countries yet have a strange connection running through them. Our contemporary story is set in Canada and features our protagonist Detective Sime Mackenzie who is sent with an investigation team to the Gulf of St. Lawrence where a man has been stabbed to death in his own home. His wife, an apparent witness to the murder, described how an intruder entered the house and attacked her before stabbing her husband, but unfortunately all the evidence points to the wife being the culprit. This proves hard to digest for Sime as ever since first meeting her, he has the sense that he knows her, and he becomes desperate to prove her innocence.
The reader discovers that Sime’s ancestors were in fact from the Scottish Highlands and moved to Canada during the Highland Clearances in the 19th century. He vividly remembers his grandmother reading stories to him from one of his ancestors treasured diaries and in the historical portion of the novel, we are transported back to Scotland during that time, as Sime begins to dream of his ancestors story, who also happens to have the same name as him. This is where the connection to the contemporary comes in as he sees the wife of the murdered man, Kirsty in the place of his ancestors first love. I loved both the contemporary and the historical parts of the story, but found the 19th century Scottish parts so beautiful and compelling that it was hard to put the book down. May drags you willingly back to the times when the crofters toiled and struggled over their own land, enduring famine, illness and death while the rich landlords lived in splendour, poaching for fun and denying the poorer families a better way to make a living. Then the Highland Clearances came, and landlords had the power to eject the crofters from their land, placing the majority of them on boats out to Canada to get them out of the way, at times with considerable violence. As a Scot myself, I found these parts of the novel particularly emotional, and although I know a fair bit about my ancestors often tragic history, it gave me a sort of hunger and anger to learn more about it.
Sime as a character was wonderful to get to know (after suffering pangs of sadness for the end of the Lewis Trilogy!) and he undergoes a fair amount of heartbreak in this novel with what he has to deal with both personally and professionally. It did make me wish that this novel wasn’t a stand-alone, as I feel there is a lot we could still discover with Sime. As the investigation nears its end, the reader is left hanging until almost the very last moment to find out who exactly murdered Kirsty’s husband and their reasons behind it, and I loved that the author also finished his own ancestors story making all the connections between the past and present finally clear. This is a fantastic book by Peter May, who in my opinion just keeps getting better and better, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):