First Chapter First Paragraph: I’ll Keep You Safe by Peter May

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

My book this week is one of the books I’m planning to read soon. It’s I’ll Keep You Safe by Peter May.

I'll Keep You Safe

First from the Prologue:

All she can hear is the ringing in her ears. A high-pitched tinnitus drowning out all other sounds. The chaos around her has no real form. Flaming fragments from the blast still falling from the night sky, bodies lying on the concrete. The shadows of figures fleeing the flames extend towards her across the square, flickering like monochrome images on a screen.

and from Chapter One:

The last hours of their life together replayed themselves through a thick fog of painful recollection. Did people really change, or was it just your perception of them? And if that was true, had you ever really known them in the first place?

Blurb (Amazon):

WHATEVER HAPPENS

Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane co-own the Hebridean company Ranish Tweed. On a business trip to Paris to promote their luxury brand, Niamh learns of Ruairidh’s affair, and then looks on as he and his lover are killed by a car bomb. She returns home to Lewis, bereft.

I’LL ALWAYS BE THERE FOR YOU

Niamh begins to look back on her life with Ruairidh, desperate to identify anyone who may have held a grudge against him. The French police, meanwhile, have ruled out terrorism, and ruled in murder – and sent Detective Sylvie Braque to shadow their prime suspect: Niamh.

I’LL KEEP YOU SAFE, NO MATTER WHAT

As one woman works back through her memories, and the other moves forward with her investigation, the two draw ever closer to a deadly enemy with their own, murderous, designs.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Peter May is one of my favourite authors so I’m anticipating that I’ll really enjoy this book, set mainly on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The blurb seems to tell a lot of what happens in the book placing it as a crime thriller novel, but then the reflective, philosophical tone of the opening of  paragraph of Chapter One seems to me to indicate that maybe this book is more than that …

First Chapter First Paragraph: Coffin Road by Peter May

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week I’m featuring a book that I’m thinking of reading soon – Coffin Road by Peter May.

Coffin Road

It begins:

The first thing I am aware of is the taste of salt. It fills my mouth. Pervasive. It dominates my being, smothering all other senses. Until the cold takes me. Sweeps me up and cradles me in its arms. Holding me so tightly I can’t seem to move. Except for the shivering. A raging, uncontrollable shivering. And somewhere in my mind I know this to be a good thing. My body is trying to generate heat. If I wasn’t shivering I would be dead.

I have written so many times that the use of the present tense is not my preferred tense – so why am I even thinking of reading this book? Well, it’s by Peter May and I’ve enjoyed all of his books that I’ve read. And I think this opening paragraph is so good at describing such extreme cold – the short sentences showing how hard it is to breathe – and at the same time without saying so lets you know this scene is by the sea. I hardly even noticed it’s written in the present tense!

This paragraph entices me to read this book – I want to know more. Why is this person in this situation?

The blurb tells you more:

A man stands bewildered on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris. He cannot remember who he is. The only clue to his identity is a folded map of a path named the Coffin Road. He does not know where this search will take him.

A detective from Lewis sits aboard a boat, filled with doubt. DS George Gunn knows that a bludgeoned corpse has been discovered on a remote rock twenty miles offshore. He does not know if he has what it takes to uncover how and why.

A teenage girl lies in her Edinburgh bedroom, desperate to discover the truth about her scientist father’s suicide. Two years on, Karen Fleming still cannot accept that he would wilfully abandon her. She does not yet know his secret.

Coffin Road follows three perilous journeys towards one shocking truth – and the realisation that ignorance can kill us.

∼ ∼ 

What do you think – would you read on?

Extraordinary People by Peter May

Extraordinary People (The Enzo Files, #1)

I loved Peter May’s Lewis trilogy and I also enjoyed his standalone book, Entry Island, so I decided to read Extraordinary People, the first in his Enzo Files series when I saw a copy in a secondhand bookshop (along with the second in the series, The Critic). They are both TBR books.

Set in France the action moves between various locations, but is mainly in Paris, as Enzo Macleod tries to solve a cold case mystery, that of the disappearance and presumed death of Jacques Gaillard, an eminent professor, 10 years earlier. Enzo is trained as forensic scientist, who is now a professor of  biology at a university in Toulouse. He has taken a bet that he can solve seven of the most notorious murders, using modern technology. Journalist Roger Raffin had originally researched the Gaillard case and shares his information with Enzo and accompanies him on the search.

It helps that a metal trunk had been found in the catacombs under the Place d’Italie, containing a skull and a number of apparently unconnected items. Enzo succeeds in establishing that it is Gaillard’s skull and using the items in the trunk as clues begins the search for the rest of his skeleton. This takes the form of internet searches, DNA investigations and leaps of intuition, ending up in a dramatic scene back in the Paris catacombs. Enzo’s own life is in danger and that of his elder daughter, Kirsty.

There is quite a lot about Enzo and his family background. He is of Scottish/Italian parents, with a complicated personal life. He has two daughters, by different mothers. Kirsty refuses to have anything to do with him, whereas Sophie who dotes on him, lives with him, whilst Enzo can’t stand her boyfriend.

I had a couple of small issues with this book. It takes the form of a puzzle and a chase to find the culprit, much in the same vein as Dan Brown’s books. I did find it rather implausible that the murderer would have left such specific clues and although Enzo does raise the question of why anyone would do that, it’s never properly answered (to my mind at least).

I also questioned why the French police ordered him to leave the investigation solely to them without using his obvious skills and knowledge (there is a reason for that, which I quickly surmised).

Another little niggle is the way May interspersed the text with French words for some items, but not others – the word séjour is used a lot but other rooms such as ‘bedroom’, ‘hall’ are in English – a minor quibble I know, but each time I read it I wondered why.

But, having said all that I did like the book, it’s very readable and I learned a lot about Paris and its catacombs.

  • My copy: published in GB in 2014 by Quercus Editions Ltd, 420 pages
  • Source: I bought a secondhand paperback copy
  • My rating: 3* (it would have been 4*, but for the leaps of intuition and other small issues I had with this book)

Reading Challenges: my 3rd book for the RIP 2017 challenge and my 20th book for Bev’s Mount TBR 2017.

My Friday Post: Extraordinary People

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

This week I’m featuring Extraordinary People by Peter May

Extraordinary People (The Enzo Files, #1)

Prologue

August 1996

He finds himself in a cobbled courtyard, breath hissing back at him from buttressed walls. A rasping, gasping breath, full of fear and the certainty of death.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice. These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56

‘He’s Scottish,’ Raffin said.

Thomas made a slight forward thrusting movement of his jaw to indicate his contempt for anyone who wasn’t Parisian.

Blurb:

An old mystery. 
As midnight strikes, a man desperately seeking sanctuary flees into a church. The next day, his sudden disappearance will make him famous throughout France.

A new science. 
Forensic expert Enzo Macleod takes a wager to solve the seven most notorious French murders, armed with modern technology and a total disregard for the justice system.

A fresh trail. 
Deep in the catacombs below the city, he unearths dark clues deliberately set – and as he draws closer to the killer, discovers that he is to be the next victim.

What do you think? Would you continue reading?

First Chapter, First Paragraph: Runaway

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Runaway by Peter May is one of the books I’m thinking of reading this month. I’ve read some of his other books, the Lewis Trilogy and Entry Island and thoroughly enjoyed them, real page-turners. So I’m hoping that Runaway will be just as good.

It begins with a Prologue:

London

He wakes in a cold sweat from a dream pervaded by darkness and blood. And after a lifetime of being someone else in another land, he wonders who he is now. This man, who, he knows, is fading all too soon. A life squandered for a love lost. A life that seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.

and moves on to Chapter One in 2015:

Glasgow

Jack stepped down from the bus almost at the end of Battlefield Road and raised his head towards the darkening sky with a sense of foreboding. He took in the brooding silhouette of the smoke-stained Victoria Infirmary that climbed the hill above the field of battle where Mary, Queen of Scots, was once defeated by James VI, and felt as if someone had just walked over his grave.

Now, reading this, I am keen to read on. Flicking through the book I can see that it alternates between 1965 and 2015.

The back cover reveals that in 1965, five teenage friends fled Glasgow for London to pursue their dream of musical stardom. Yet before year’s end three returned, and returned damaged. In 2015, a brutal murder forces those three men, now in their sixties, to journey back to London and finally confront the dark truth they have run from for five decades.

 What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

Still Catching Up

I’ve been missing from my blog for most of September, but I’ve still been reading. We’ve just returned from a  few days in the Lake District – such a beautiful part of the UK!

Caldbeck P1010042
Caldbeck Cumbria

I managed to squeeze in some reading time as well as walking in the fells near Caldbeck and visiting the Pencil Museum in Keswick, Castlerigg Stone Circle, the Honister Pass, Ullswater and Aira Force. I’ll post some photos later on.

I took two books with me that I had already begun reading and finished one of them – Entry Island by Peter May. I’ve previously read May’s Lewis Trilogy – The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man and The Chessmen all of which I loved and whilst I did enjoy Entry Island I don’t think it quite lives up to the Lewis books. However, as I discovered when I came home this weekend Entry Island has been awarded the third annual Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award at the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival.

Entry Island is set in present day Magdalen Islands, part of the province of Quebec, in the Gulf of St Lawrence, and in the nineteenth century on the Isle of Lewis at the time of the Highland Clearances.  It mixes together two stories and two genres, crime fiction and historical fiction. It has a strong sense of place in both locations and beautiful descriptions of the landscape as for example in this passage:

It was another ten minutes before the ferry slipped out of the harbour, gliding past the outer breakwater on a sea like glass, to reveal Entry Island in the far distance, stretched out on the far side of the bay, the sun only now rising above a gathering of dark morning cloud beyond it. The island drew Sime’s focus and held it there, almost trancelike, as the sun sent its reflection careening towards him, creating what was almost a halo effect around the island itself. There was something magical about it. Almost mystical. (page 14)

The characters are convincing – Detective Sime Mackenzie, based in Montreal is part of the team sent to Entry Island to investigate the death of the wealthy businessman, James Cowell found stabbed to death. His wife, Kirsty is the obvious suspect. Sime is suffering from insomnia, a situation made worse by the fact that his ex-wife is also on the investigating team. Sime is convinced that he knows Kirsty, although they have never met before and he doubts that she is the culprit. Running parallel to this crime fiction element is the historical one, linked by Sime’s ancestor, also called Sime who was a crofter’s son on the Isle of Lewis and whose love for the laird’s daughter seemed doomed from the start. The story of life on Lewis and the harsh treatment the crofters received during the potato famine, followed by the terrible conditions they endured during their transportation to Canada is powerfully and emotionally portrayed.

The two stories are linked together well, but I found the present day investigation not too convincing and rather contrived as the team seemed to jump to conclusions without much thought or thorough investigation of the evidence. And I thought that the historical element was dominant at the expense of the modern day crime story making the book a little unbalanced. However, as I said I liked the book, which is an entertaining read that held my interest to the end.

Peter May is a prolific author. He was born and brought up in Scotland, but he now lives in France. As well as The Lewis Trilogy he has also written The Enzo Files, a series of seven books featuring Scottish forensic scientist, Enzo MacLeod, who lives in France, teaches at a university in Toulouse, and is working on solving seven of France’s most famous cold cases by applying the latest scientific techniques and The China Thrillers, a series of six books featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and Margaret Campbell, forensic pathologist from Chicago. He has also had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer. 

I still have three other books to write about, including my first book for this year’s R.I.P. Challenge, Testament of a Witch, which like Entry Island also qualifies for the Read Scotland 2014 Challenge. Will I ever catch up with myself?

The Blackhouse by Peter May

I first became aware of Peter May’s books when I saw The Lewis Man in a bookshop when we were on holiday in Glencoe last September. I was drawn to it because of its title and its historical reference – a man found buried in a peat bog on the Isle of Lewis. But when I realised that it was the second in a trilogy I decided to read the first book first and it’s only been in these last few weeks that I’ve borrowed The Blackhouse from the library and read it.

The Blackhouse (Lewis Trilogy, #1)

As I was reading The Blackhouse I wasn’t sure how to categorise it. There’s a murder and a mystery, an investigation by the police, but most of the book is not really a detective story, or a police procedural. It’s very slow reading and I had to lower my expectations of getting to grips with solving the murder mystery, because that is not the main element of this book and actually it’s not too difficult to work out who the murderer is.

I liked it very much, although I nearly stopped reading when I got to the description of the post mortem – I don’t like gruesome! It was a particularly brutal killing. But I’m glad I carried on and settled into the rhythm of the book. I loved the dramatic setting on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and wished this book had a map as the geography of the island plays an important part in the story (I see the last book in the trilogy, The Chessmen, does have a map!). But Peter May’s descriptions convey the atmosphere and bring the scenes to life beautifully and vividly.

Detective Fin Macleod is seconded from the Edinburgh police force to help with the investigation into the murder in the village of Crobost on Lewis because it bears a resemblance to a similar murder in Edinburgh and Fin was born and brought up on Lewis, so he knows the people and speaks Gaelic. As the story unfolds, the narrative splits in two – one, set in the present day, follows the murder investigation (told in the third person) and the other, (told in the first person) as Fin recalls the events of his childhood and remembers his friends – some of whom are still living on Lewis. These include his best friend, Artair, his first girlfriend, Marsaili and the school bully (and murder victim) Angus Macritichie, known as Angel.

Fin’s memories are not all happy ones and include the time he took part in the traditional annual two week trip to An Sgeir, the rock fifty miles north-north-east of Lewis to harvest the guga, or young gannets. Twelve men from Crobost still carried on the four hundred year tradition, living rough on the rock, clambering over the cliffs to snare and kill the young birds. It’s in passages like these, that are vital to the plot and yet seemingly buried in Fin’s mind, that May excels.

The book gathers pace as it reaches its conclusion, in comparison to the almost leisurely story-telling of the earlier sections, as the drama and tension increase. Fin not only uncovers the identity of the murderer but also discovers things about himself either that he hadn’t known before or had buried deep within his mind. Things that turn his world upside down for ever.

I liked it so much that almost immediately I began The Lewis Man, which so far is equally as good.