Blog Tour- Peter May- I’ll Keep You Safe

Husband and wife Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane co-own Ranish Tweed: a Hebridean company that weaves its own special variety of Harris cloth, which has become a sought-after brand in the world of high fashion. But when Niamh learns of Ruairidh’s affair with Russian designer Irina Vetrov, then witnesses the pair killed by a car bomb in Paris, her life is left in ruins.
Along with her husband’s remains, she returns home to the Isle of Lewis, bereft.
The Paris police have ruled out terrorism, and ruled in murder – making Niamh the prime suspect, along with Irina’s missing husband, Georgy. And so French Detective Sylvie Braque is sent to the island to look into Niamh’s past, unaware of the dangers that await her.
As Braque digs deeper into the couple’s history, Niamh herself replays her life with Ruiairidh, searching her memory for those whose grievances might have led to murder. And with each layer revealed, and every unexpected twist uncovered, the two women find themselves drawn inexorably closer to a killer who will not turn back…

There is little that banishes the January blues quite as effectively as a new book from the popular, and diverse,  crime novelist Peter May. It is with some pleasure that the Raven can declare that I’ll Keep You Safe, another Hebridean outing and laced with a touch of the Parisian, accompanied by leftover Christmas chocolate and a wee dram was, by and large, a real new year treat…

For my review I will only dally fleetingly on the plot of this one, as there are neat little twists and tricks, heralded by the literally explosive beginning that will unsettle, surprise and delight you in equal measure. Integral to the success of these is the structure of the book, and the characterisation, and this is what I would particularly like to draw your attention to. Strangely, I’m going to compare Peter May to a stand up comedian, and here’s why. Just as a good stand up comedian would begin to tell you a story, then seamlessly goes off on what appears to be a largely unconnected tangent, then drawing you back to their original story, and repeating this process to the story’s conclusion, so May uses this same device to great effect. He provides us with a relatively linear plot in that woman’s possibly unfaithful husband is killed in car explosion and setting the reader on the course to find out who did it, but by using casual small references to previous events,  he then takes us on an intriguing circular perambulation to explore these happenings, satisfyingly building up layers of the personal histories of his characters. It’s also akin to looking at an old photograph album, so that we can picture Niamh and Ruairidh at crucial points in their formative years, as well as in the life they build together. Niamh’s life and experiences in particular are a real driving force in the book, and as the book is so closely structured around her grief, confusion and anger, I felt incredibly drawn to her. I enjoyed discovering more about her as the book progressed, and the emotional weight that May invests in her does to a certain extent put other characters in the shade, most notably French detective Sylvie Braque, who aside from her interactions with the island police, disappointingly failed to ignite my interest to any degree. Some of the more minor Hebridean characters like Richard Faulkner of Ranish Tweed, and ruddy faced policeman George Gunn provide some good local colour, but I had mixed feelings about another character who brings strife and chaos in their wake…

Throughout the book I couldn’t shake the sense that although I was enveloped in the characters’ lives, the authorial voice of May was very strong as he embellishes his narrative with the depth of research, the evocation of landscape, and his astute understanding of human frailty and strength compounded with his natural flair of almost seeming to speak to the reader one-to-one. For this reason I found myself genuinely interested in the history of tweed, bizarre burial rites, the dangers of peat, and other random facts, that I will be certain to introduce into conversation when the opportunity arises. But seriously, May’s depiction of the landscape, texture and rhythm of life in this island community is fascinating as always, triggering our senses, and enveloping us completely in the story. I was enthralled by his descriptions and observations, so much so that the strangeness of the ending, which I confess did baffle, and slightly perplex me, faded into the background due to the mesmeric beauty of the four hundred pages which preceded it. I loved the pure storytelling I’ll Keep You Safe, and was again in thrall to May’s ability to so closely draw the reader in to this insular and unique community, and the secrets and lies that come to bear. Your senses will be tantalised, your fancy will be tickled, and I guarantee that ending will get you talking…

(With thanks to Riverrun/Quercus Books for the ARC)

Catch up with the blog tour at these excellent sites

 

 

Mari Jungstedt- The Dangerous Game

aaaFor one reason or another Mari Jungstedt had slipped off my reading list, so after a slight hiatus for me in the series it was good to embark on her writing again. This is the eighth of the series to feature detectives Anders Knutas and Karin Jacobsson, and is set against the backdrop of the Swedish fashion world, and all the petty rivalries and skulduggery within it.

The book opens with a vicious attack on fashion photographer, Markus Sanberg, a dislikeable lothario who seems to spend most of his time seducing the young models he photographs. His latest conquest is Jenny Levin, a fresh-faced and naïve girl from the rural backwoods, and the greatest focus throughout the book is her connection to Markus, and the murders that follow this initial attack. We also meet Agnes, a former model, now incarcerated in a clinic, suffering from acute anorexia, and for me, her narrative was probably the most engaging part of the book. We see through her eyes the inordinate amount of pressure put on young girls in the fashion business, and the traumatic aftermath she has experienced in not only her damaging relationship with food, but how her life has been ruined. Slowly, Jungstedt interlinks the experiences of both Jenny and Agnes as the murderer has connections to both, and how Knutas and Jacobsson enter a world largely unknown to them in pursuit of a murderer…

To be honest, I wasn’t completely enamoured with this book, and was thrown initially by the relating of two events that even at the close of reading, I could find no connection to what had happened in the main body of the story. Indeed, I was a little underwhelmed with the plot generally, so other aspects of the book became more important. The story largely consisted of a group of fairly dislikeable characters, arrogant Markus, limpid Jenny and so on, that I found increasingly difficult to care about. As I said previously, Agnes was the shining light amongst a fairly mediocre cast of characters, but probably more so in the fact that she revealed to us the dark side of the fashion world, and the daily difficulties she experiences in trying to overcome her eating disorder. I think most readers could not fail to be moved by her travails, and there is a huge amount of poignancy in Jungstedt’s portrayal of her, particularly in relation to the events near the close of the book. Detectives Knutas and Jacobsson do not seem to have moved on an incredible amount from the last time I read this series. There is still the air of unrequited love bubbling below the surface, but I did enjoy the sharper focus placed on Jacobsson’s reunion with the now adult daughter she gave up for adoption. Their handling of the investigation was fairly straightforward, unveiling few surprises along the way, and the murderer was not exceptionally well-disguised.

In fairness to Jungstedt, whose previous books I have largely enjoyed, I will file this one away as a ‘bridging’ book in the series, with the hope that the next outing for the likeable Knutas and Jacobsson is a good deal more fulfilling. A normally pleasing detective duo, but not given room to shine in this one.

(With thanks to Doubleday for the ARC)