The Chess Men by Peter May. Book III of the Lewis trilogy.


One of the most powerful  protagonists in this book is the desolate, windswept  island of Lewis “where the weather as a topic was always high on the agenda”. 

I read that a loch can disappear all of a sudden, overnight. Apparently it is called a” bog burst”. I was so intrigued that I checked on the net about it. I didn’t find out for sure  but such a phenomenon ( due to climate change)  occurred  in Chile in 2012 and it was tempting for Peter May to transfer it to a Hebridean loch for his story.  Wild, fierce,  uncontrollable nature in keeping with human passions and fate and … a striking start of his story 😉

A new character, not met before in the trilogy, Whistler, a tormented soul whose life could only go wrong, appears here. A man with a superior IQ whose emotional balance always very low leading to a real mess. A man who could have been a genius had he found a helping and loving  hand when a kid. A man who could beautifully carve huge chess items representing islanders. A man whose life was doomed right from the beginning. A man who couldn’t express himself with words and abandoned himself to violence. A man who fathered a wee girl, deeply loving her but incapable of telling her. A man whose life has been unforgiving and eerie. 

Fin Mac Leod, the recurring character in the trilogy, was nevertheless his only friend through his childhood and teenage years. Peter May had to link the new character to his trilogy but … to me it is a bit far -fetched. I would have liked to know what happened to the secondary characters we followed throughout the two first books. Nothing much is said about them.

I enjoyed reading that book in the trilogy though. I got trapped in the Hebridean magic once again and really liked that guy Fin MacLeod, representative of this post-60’s generation whose lives in a remote part of Scotland have taken a complete new turn with music ( here the revival of Gaelic music so much similar to what went on in Brittany, another Celtic country,  in those years), the development of means of transport starting with individual basic mopeds , the desire to explore the wide world … all the excesses young people went through … 

Peter May has been able to grasp that most peculiar  tipping over  moment of  a quickly changing world which faced  a whole generation, from a highly  traditional and secular way of living right into the roaring 70’s and later, with limits to constantly redefine. From a secure, if not despotic, world to perpetual moving sands.

I will miss the Hebrides and Fin MacLeod. I wonder if Peter May could be convinced into turning his trilogy into a tetralogy or a series. He is leaving the reader a bit hungry for more 😉