Setting – Entry Island or I’Ile d’entrée, in French – just of the Eastern coast of Quebec province in Canada and the Scottish Island of Lewis –
Story in a nutshell –
Aaah Canada – a favourite country of choice here at the booktrail so this was an easy book to choose for a trail.
Montreal detective Sime Mackenzie, is a bit of a loner amongst his colleagues – he is certainly different as with his Scottish heritage for one, he is seen as different too.
He’s called upon to help with the possible murder of a business man who lived on the island. Sime is a man on a mission as he wants nothing more than to make a journey of many many miles northeast to Entry Island in the Gulf of St Lawrence.
For this is some place – a setting of darkness and foreboding, remote and forgotten where only 100 or so people live. And the richest of them all – has been murdered.
The victim’s widow is the obvious suspect – but this causes problems from the start for Sime since he is sure he knows her personally and what’s more, he starts to have feelings for her he’s not sure that he should have.
Peter May is the master artist with his paintbrush poised when it comes to evoking the setting of his novels –
A crescent of silver sand curls away towards the cemetery and the standing stones on the rise
The full effect is quite akin to looking through an old film camera and seeing the darkened vignette of history sweep across the screeen at regular intervals. And there is a linguistic thrill to this too (which we love here at the booktrail)
The murder took place on I’Ile d’entrée, Sime. Between known to ins inhabitants as Entry Island. The Madelinots are French-speaking for the most part, but on Entry they speak only English.
For this is a novel with a dark past and a darker legacy – the crofters on the island worked hard while the rich masters did not. Its at this point that the historical legacy thread to the story really comes to the fore Sime’s ancestors used to live in the Scottish Highlands before they moved to Canada during the Highland Clearances in the 19th century.
The novel is one of present and past and its during the past that the settings really shine. The Highland Clearances were a dark and violent period of history – where landlords ejected crofters from the land at will and with some force and made sure they disappeared in any way possible. Those interested in Scottish history but knowing nothing of this time, it was quite an eye opener and after finishing the novel I headed straight to Google and read more on the subject.
This is not to say that the contemporary part of the novel is not as striking as its historical partner – certainly the setting is as dark and mysterious as an Island just off Quebec in Canada would suggest. But the setting once again holds the clues to the secrets of the past –
“He crouches down to touch the earth, and in doing so feels a direct connection with history, communing with ghosts, a ghost himself haunting his own past. And yet not his past. He closes his eyes and imagines how it was, how it felt, knowing that this is where it all began, in another age, in someone else’s life.”
This is the chillingly brilliant and evocative writing of Peter May which is as evocative of anything we’ve ever read here. Where the past and the present merge and the detective has to sort out the truth from what history tells him.
Entry Island is a very interesting fusion of crime thriller, detective/police procedural and romantic historical fiction. Two settings, two time periods and one hell of a novel.
Entry Island is a fascinating place – at times dark and where time passes slowly yet lighter in tone in others with a huge sense of foreboding all the way through. The prose reflects this brilliantly and the pace more than matches what is happening in the novel as a whole. The tension as Sime becomes more and more obsessed not to mention drawn into the whole affair of clearing Kirsty’s name, then the pace racks up a notch on the thriller scale. And it doesn’t hold back.