An unidentified body has been discovered in a peat bog on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Originally thought to be an ancient burial, once examined, the body proves to have been buried in much more recent times. The only clue to its identity is a DNA sibling match to a local farmer. There's going to be a problem in dealing with the farmer because not only is Tormod Macdonald an old man suffering from dementia, he's also always claimed to be an only child.
Fin Macleod, recently retired from the Edinburgh police force, has returned to the island of his childhood to make a new life for himself. When he's approached by Tormod's family for help, he knows he must do everything he can to solve the mystery of the Lewis Man.
Having fallen under the spell of the first book in Peter May's Lewis trilogy, The Blackhouse, I literally snatched a copy of this book off the shelf when I spied it at my favorite local bookstore. Sometimes when I have such a strong positive reaction to a book I can be rather hesitant to pick up the second, fearing that it won't "live up" to the first. For some reason I didn't feel any such hesitance this time, and I was rewarded with a book that's even more powerful.
To have a mystery rely upon a character suffering from dementia could be a very risky proposition, but Peter May handles it brilliantly. Much is learned about each character in how they relate to Tormod: from his wife, who's kicked him out of the house, to his daughter, who loves her father but doesn't quite know how to cope, to Fin, whose grace and patience and compassion with the old man made me want to cry. While Fin tries to make sense of what little information he can get from Tormod, Tormod's childhood is gradually revealed to the reader. Over the years there have been so many lies and secrets that the ending-- and the way Fin arrives at it-- should come as quite a surprise.
And-- as always in this trilogy-- the Isle of Lewis makes its presence felt in the lyrical beauty of its rugged landscape and in the strength of its people. The Lewis Man is a feast for the eye and the heart and the mind. It is not to be missed.
The Lewis Man by Peter May
Quercus © 2012
Paperback, 435 pages
Police Procedural, Literary Mystery, #2 in the Lewis Trilogy
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.