Book review: ‘The Chessmen’ by Peter May

Last week was the release of the final book in the Lewis Trilogy by Peter May called ‘The Chessmen’. For me, this was a long-awaited read having loved this trilogy since reading ‘The Blackhouse’ in December 2012.  I was trying to get back into reading as I finally had the time to enjoy it again and was using the Richard and Judy Book Club as a guide. This was the first book in a long time that I could not put down.  I was taken immediately by May’s descriptions of Isle of Lewis and fell in love with the place. I wanted to go there; in fact, I was there.  I could feel the chill of the wind and see the harsh mountains and feel the rain. I also fell a little bit in love with the main character, Fin, a Detective Inspector from Edinburgh returning to his childhood home when a body was found there that seemed linked to a case he was working on.

The trilogy is crime fiction, but I found that each book becomes less focussed on the murder committed and more focussed on Fin and his personal journey. An orphan brought up by his aunt, he left Lewis for university and did not return except briefly for his aunt’s funeral. It is work that brings him home again, not long after the death of his son in a hit-and-run, and we see him uncovering truths of his past and reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Marsaili.

‘The Blackhouse’ was full of twists and turns and it kept me guessing all the way through.  Even when I knew who it was there was something about the way the book was written that made me doubt myself.  ‘The Lewis Man’ and ‘The Chessmen’ did not quite have this, although I still enjoyed reading them.  ‘The Lewis Man’ was my least favourite and, having now read the last book, it feels like more of a filler. I was expecting a lot from the last book.

I was not disappointed.  I read it in two days (yay for a powercut at work which meant I couldn’t do any work for an hour! = even more time!).  I was shown yet more of the Hebrides and fell in love with them even more. They seemed even more dramatic than in any of the other books and I could visualise everything so vividly. Fin has now permanently resettled on Lewis and is reunited with an old school friend, Whistler.  Together, they discover a light aircraft after a loch disappears after a ‘Bog Burst’.  Inside, is a friend of theirs, Roddy, whose flight disappeared more than seventeen years ago.  However, it turns out he’s been murdered. And so, Fin begins to dig into the past and find out what really happens.

There were a few surprises in store for me.  Some I suspected, others caught me by surprise.  But, that is how I like it.  In crime stories I like to be shocked but I also like to be able to figure out who dunnit by myself! (Which I did.) The ending definitely caught me by surprise and I was glad that the death of Fin’s son also came to something of a resolution as it was a theme that ran through all three books.  It was not what I expected as I had played out all sorts of scenarios in my head but, although I’m not sure if I liked how it concluded, it was definitely preferable to my imaginings!

I will definitely be reading more of Peter May’s books as I love his writing style.  It is so easy to read and so descriptive (I am all for description) and he certainly keeps me on my toes.


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