The brooding presence of both landscape and weather fill Peter May’s Lewis Man trilogy, which comes to a commanding close in the final instalment, The Chessmen, available now as a Quercus audiobook.
This is the art of the audiobook at its finest. And reader Peter Forbes is unparalleled in his timing and execution. I can imagine sitting down and reading the book in the time-honoured fashion, but it is with Forbes’s Scots timbre and rhythm that the tale really comes alive. The whole cast of place names, lochs, mountains and coastline are so much more immediate and real when read in the right voice.
The tale itself is full of chance and circumstance and regret and tragedy and dark withering humanity. A tale for winter. Full of sound and fury.
The protagonist, Fin Macleod, is head of security on a privately owned Lewis estate in what must be the northernmost isle off Scotland’s west coast. He is looking into a recent spate of poaching that seems to be taking place on an industrial scale. The landowner ill, his spoiled son who has taken over the running of the estate is quick to make enemies, amongst them Fin’s boyhood friend and saviour Whistler Macaskill, who lives from what he can catch in the forests and in the lakes where he has spent his entire life. He is the carver of the eponymous chessmen – as large as life and replicas of an ancient set discovered at one time on the isle. He is keeper of a secret that bonded a group of the local young people as they grew up at school, at university on the main land, and then when they formed a music group that went on to fame and fortune in exile.
As the book opens, a freak storm diverts a small loch to reveal a crashed light plane – a plane that went down many years before. Inside is what is taken to be the partially preserved body of one of Fin’s and Whistler’s boyhood friends. But is all as it at first seems?
This audiobook simply cannot be recommended highly enough. You are sure not to be disappointed.
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