Part present day crime novel, and part historical novel “Entry Island“ is set alternately in the present day on the Magdalen islands, and hundreds of years ago in the Hebrides. Peter May has written a memorable novel that will resonate for many years to come. He writes with visceral empathy of island people and their often insular way of living.
There has been a brutal murder on Entry Island. Sime MacKenzie (pronounced Sheem) has been appended to the investigative team and travels to the island. One of the team members, the forensic expert, is his ex-wife Marie-Ange, so there is more than a little personal tension present. The break-up of his marriage has taken a harsh toll on Sime and he now suffers from debilitating insomnia as a result.
“He felt almost ghostlike, insubstantial,
lost somewhere in a life gone wrong.”
James Cowell, one of the islands most wealthy residents has been stabbed to death in his home. His wife is the main suspect. When Sime first meets Kirsty Cowell he immediately feels a connection with her even though he has never met her before… then, through the course of the interview, she tells Sime that she has a pendant that is identical to the signet ring he is wearing. A ring that was passed on to him from his father.
“The blood is strong”
Strangely, after meeting Kirsty, Sime begins to have vivid dreams of his ancestral heritage in the Hebrides, Scotland. Although he only sleeps one or two hours per night, his dreams are portrayals of the diaries which his grandmother read to him as a child. They portrayed a devastating time in which the Highland clearances robbed the crofters of their livelihood and everything they possessed. The brutality and unceasing hardship of life during this time was poignantly described by the author. Interestingly, the protagonist of these dreams/stories was also named Sime (Gaelic for Simon) and was his great-great-great grandfather.
Entry Island is home to just over one hundred persons and is just two kilometres wide and three kilometres long. With such a small population, where everyone knows everyone else, it is not deemed necessary to lock doors. Evidence is scarce, but what there is of it points toward Kirsty Cowell as the murderer. Sime finds himself wanting to believe her protestations of innocence.
Then a local man goes missing. Norman Morrison is 35 years old, yet has the mental age of about 12 years. He lives with his mother on Entry Island and went to school with Kirsty Cowell. Ever since then he has been a bit obsessed with Kirsty. Could the missing man have some connection with Cowell’s murder?
“The air was filled with the sound of the ocean,
the slow steady breath of eternity.”
Sime’s continuing dreams about his ancestors color how he views Kirsty and he finds that he has lost all objectivity. He fears that his feelings about her will jeopardize his career. Then while guarding the suspect overnight on Entry Island, Sime goes out for a walk and is attacked. His attacker is much as Kirsty described her husband’s murderer…
Cowell’s main competitor on the island also has a twofold motive for the murder. With Cowell gone he would benefit financially AND his wife was having an affair with Cowell.
Beautiful prose, a strong sense of place, and human empathy colour this novel. It is a perfect blend of modern crime thriller, historical fiction, and gothic love story. It is a story of fate, how our ancestors influence our present, and the continuity of family. A novel of avarice, unimaginable hardship, promises kept, and finally, destiny.
“Entry Island” is an outstanding novel that I highly recommend.
Listen and watch a video clip in which Peter May talks about Entry Island.
I also enjoyed Peter May’s “The Blackhouse”. Click HERE to read my review.
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.