Tuesday, 20 December 2011

I don't read a lot of crime fiction and the Scottish detective with tragic past usually makes me think heigh-ho, been here before ...
But Cornflower's review of this book intrigued me.
Detective Fin Macleod returns to the Hebridean island of Lewis, where he grew up, to investigate a particularly gristly murder that appears to be a copy of another recent murder in Edinburgh.
It is the first time he has been back to the island since he escaped to go to university and his journey back, as he encounters those who never got away, excavates uncomfortable skeletons from his past. At the heart of it all lies the traditional slaughter of the guga - young gannets - on an even bleaker, rocky islet out in the North Atlantic. Once this had been a vital source of food for the islanders but now the guga are a threatened delicacy and the annual slaughter has become a testing rite of passage for the island's men. Macleod has participated once during his last teenage summer on Lewis ... but whatever happens on the rock, stays on the rock. I got off to a slow start reading this but then the grey, barren island got to me, along with its god-fearing population, and by the end - despite a few minor quibbles - I was as gripped as Karen was. I can't remember when I last read a book that conveyed such a deep sense of place. And the description of the brutal culling of 2,000 guga on stinking, slippery An Sgeir rock is completely riveting (but not for the tender-hearted). Despite the gore, I'm now intrigued to know what it tastes like. No surprise that Peter May used to live on Lewis although he never participated in the closed-shop of the gannet slaughter. What did surprise me is that this brilliant book was initially rejected, and it was published in French - under the rather better title L'Ile des Chasseurs D'Oiseaux - before it was published in English. I kept thinking that it would make a brilliant television series and must say that I'm looking forward to the second book in the Lewis trilogy, out very soon.

7 comments:

Cornflower said...

So glad you liked it!

mary said...

Very good recommendation, Karen! Thank you. I noticed it in library the other day after reading your books of the year list.

mimy said...

nice idea, thanks for sharing...

mary said...

Hello Mimy, it's always nice to get a comment from somebody new!

Dark Puss said...

Hi, sorry this is completely unrelated to this book review, but noticing your comment on the photograph of the model in 1950 that Harriet Devine posted recently I put up one especially for you on Morgana's Cat Speaks.

http://morganas-cat.tumblr.com/post/14770757939/for-harriet-and-m-especially-happy-christmas-to

Have a Happy New Year, Dark Puss

Lilith said...

I am completely, utterly impressed at the number of books you have read in recent years!

mary said...

Hello, Lilith ... nice to meet you and thank you for commenting. I'm so impressed by others who read more than I do that I have to remind myself sometimes that it isn't a race!