Calum MacLeod is a reporter for the Inverness Courier and had been writing for SHOTS since its early days. In 2009 the Highland and Islands Media Awards' judging panel awarded him “Highly Commended Feature Writer of the Year”.
our crime writers are to be believed our apparently placid Scottish islands are
hot beds of crime. Ann Cleeves has won the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger for her
tales of murder in Shetland and Louise Welsh has develved into mystery and
intrigue on little Lismore.
Peter May has turned to Lewis, though with a murder rate currently running at
one a century, as the author notes, it is hardly seems likely to offer fertile
ground for a crime series, even if it is first of a planned trilogy.
May knows his Lewis. Though he comes to the setting as an outsider, he spent
six years on the island working on STV’s Gaelic language soap
"Machair", obviously filing away the details of island life.
feeds into a story which, remarkably in 21st century Britain, could not have
worked anywhere else, from the stark Calvinism which ensures the island Sabbath
remains very much the Lord’s Day, to the annual guga hunt of baby gannets
conducted by the men of Ness on an inhospitable islet, recently the subject of
a BBC2 documentary, which provides the meaty climax to the tale.
is shown to us through the eyes of Inspector Fin MacLeod, a policeman in
Edinburgh sent back to the island of his birth after a killing there bears
similarities to a case he is investigating.
he is back on the island the narrative splits between Fin’s present day
investigation and his first person memories of growing from childhood into a
teenager only too anxious to escape a future that seem to him to offer few
prospects other than joyless religion and alcoholism.
many returning exiles, he starts to see what he failed to appreciate as a
youngster and misses as an adult. "You
might not think so now, but this is a magical place," he tells a teenager,
though the book is still not one likely to receive a whole hearted endorsement
from the Western Isles tourist board.
and character are the main things here, though the former manse rebel turned
stiff-necked minister could have been explored further, but there is still
space for a strong story with a solution that connects to the not entirely
sympathetic Fin’s own past mistakes.
to May, Lewis is firmly on Scotland’s crime map and easily stands comparison
with Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh or Denise Mina’s Glasgow.