“I’ll keep you safe” by the inimitable Peter May begins in Paris and ends in the atmospheric Hebrides for which he is famous.
The protagonist is forty-year old Niamh (pronounced Neave) Macfarlane. She, with her husband Ruairidh, are attending a textile fair in Paris. Together they own a successful textile business based on the Isle of Lewis named Ranish Tweed. Their childhood friendship had blossomed into a deep love that culminated in them getting married ten years previous.
While in Paris, Niamh receives a malicious email from a ‘Well Wisher’ that states Ruairidh is having an affair with Irina, a Russian designer. Disbelieving and in shock, she confronts her husband which culminates in him leaving their hotel room. She watches him as he leaves the hotel and enters a waiting car – with Irina. Moments later the car is blown to bits before her eyes!
Shocked and incredibly bereft, Niamh is questioned by the Paris police. The policewoman, Sylvie Braque, seems cold and distant to Niamh. The reader is privvy to Sylvie Braque’s feelings in a secondary narrative that runs throughout the book. Braque is a woman torn between her cherished career with the police and her love for her twin seven-year-old daughters. The increasingly erratic demands of the job have threatened her custody of her girls.
When, a few days later, Niamh is permitted to return home to the Hebrides, she is once again shocked by what little remains of her beloved husband. His remains fit into a newborn-sized box.
“From childhood you know that life will end in death. But nothing prepares you for its finality. The irrevocable, irreversible nature of it.”
At home, Niamh feels the loss of Ruairidh even more. Memories of him are everywhere, for they were not just life partners, they were business partners as well. After Ruairidh was made redundant, he used his severance money to start up Ranish tweed. Similar to Harris Tweed, but silkier and lighter, and woven on old Hattersley looms by individual weavers, the business was Ruairidh’s dream.
It doesn’t help that Niamh’s family and Ruairidh’s family have long held deep animosity for one another. Divided now when Niamh needs them most.
Policewoman Braque flies to Lewis and together with a local policeman, George Gunn, continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding Ruairidh’s death.
Meanwhile, the reader is treated to some of Niamh’s childhood memories and the history of Ranish Tweed’s inception. We are told about her childhood friends and a family tragedy. These were some of my favorite parts of the novel.
“It’s always trying to rain here.
And usually succeeds.”
Cellar Head, Isle of Lewis
May’s description of the Isle of Lewis and the beautiful house that Niamh and Ruairidh built on the remote headland of Cellar Head transported the reader, thus making the setting an integral part of the book.
The murder investigation alludes to many different possible suspects, though Niamh cannot imagine why anyone would have wanted to murder her husband. When events escalate to include an attempt on Niamh’s own life, the tension mounts…
The end of the novel, revealing the murderer, was a surprise for me, though not a completely credible one in my opinion, thus letting down the otherwise stellar read.
I have long been a fan of Peter May’s novels, and I did enjoy this one, though it is not my favorite of his. His writing is both articulate and compelling with characters that leap off the page.
Many thanks to Charlotte Cooper from Midas Public Relations who contacted me about this title. The publisher, Quercus, in conjunction with Edelweiss, provided me with a digital copy for review purposes.
Peter May was born and raised in Scotland. He was an award-winning journalist at the age of twenty-one and a published novelist at twenty-six. When his first book was adapted as a major drama series for the BBC, he quit journalism and during the high-octane 15 years that followed, became one of Scotland’s most successful television dramatists. He created three prime-time TV drama series, presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland as script editor and producer, and worked on more than 1,000 episodes of ratings-topping drama before deciding to leave television to return to his first love, writing novels.
He has won several literature awards in France and received the USA’s Barry Award for The Blackhouse, the first in his internationally bestselling Lewis Trilogy.
He now lives in South-West France with his wife, writer Janice Hally.