Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
Hot on the heels of the Barry Award-winning The Black House trilogy, comes yet another Island murder mystery from Peter May, but this time on the Magdalen Islands, off the coast of Canada.
Fifth generation Canadian / Scottish, Sûreté Inspector Sime Mackenzie is miles from his Quebec home, sent to the Gulf of Lawrence as part of a team to investigate the murder of the Island’s wealthiest inhabitant, James Cowell - who operated the majority of the lobster boats that farmed the sea coast. Mackenzie’s role is to act as an English-French translator in the interviews, including that of Kirsty Cowell, the wife of the murdered man. Kirsty is not only the sole witness to the ski-masked murderer, but also a prime suspect. Despite her bloodied clothing, there is a feeling of closeness that Mackenzie feels for Kirsty, a feeling that he can’t shake. The novel elegantly striates two threads, the contemporary investigation with that of the history and geography of these islands, and what is termed ‘The Highland Clearances’.
As Sime Mackenzie and the Quebec Sûreté investigate the murder of James Cowell, we learn that there may be a link to the Mackenzie clan and the terrible history of the mass deportation of Scottish crofters, as well as the tragedy in Mackenzie’s more recent past. Thematically the back-story elements in Entry Island’s Sime Mckenzie, echo that of Finn MacLeod’s own past [from ‘The Black House Trilogy’], but there is far more depth than just a childhood tragedy and marital woes, far, far more as the history of this area of Canada reaches back to those poor crofters forcefully removed from their homes, by ruthless force in the 18th and 19th centuries. Entry Island is a novel that informs, but not in a preaching manner. The history of the ‘Highland Clearances’ is brought to life as the parallel narrative to the police investigation, and starts to merge with what appeared as a domestic incident between the Cowells’ and is far more disturbing.
Entry Island proves that May’s The Black House Trilogy, was no flash in the pan, in fact it surpasses the expectations thanks to its measured linkage of Scottish-Canadian history to that of the darkness of the human nature. This is a novel to ‘get lost in’, evocative with a sense of place, undercurrents as menacing as the waves that pound from the Atlantic and a murder that seems an open and shut case, but like the history that encapsulates the narrative, nothing is as it seems.
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