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135 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shadows of the past...
This third part of Peter May's Lewis trilogy is stunningly good. As a long-standing enthusiast for May's work, I believe these three books are by far his best work, and this last one may even be the best of the three.

May's descriptive prose and sense of place are, as always, wonderful. The bleakness and yet beauty of this harsh weather-beaten landscape, the...
Published on 19 Nov 2012 by FictionFan

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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The trilogy was enjoyable as a whole but...
This last in the trilogy was a bit of a curate's egg, really. The first two books are a fair balance of mystery and back-story, with perhaps a little more emphasis on the protagonist's life story and motivations than is usual in most 'detective' novels than usual. This worked well for me, not only because it was heartening to read about a man in a, traditionally,...
Published 23 months ago by Starfish57


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135 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shadows of the past..., 19 Nov 2012
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This third part of Peter May's Lewis trilogy is stunningly good. As a long-standing enthusiast for May's work, I believe these three books are by far his best work, and this last one may even be the best of the three.

May's descriptive prose and sense of place are, as always, wonderful. The bleakness and yet beauty of this harsh weather-beaten landscape, the way of life and traditions of the islanders, the still strong grip of the ultra-conservative Church - all of these are woven seamlessly through the story. And the story once again is focused on shadows of the past coming back to haunt the present.

Roddy Mackenzie, an old friend of Fin's, has been presumed dead since his plane went missing 17 years ago but his body was never recovered. Until now...and with the discovery, old memories are dragged up, old friendships and enmities re-evaluated and old crimes lead to new ones. From the start, the landscape and weather of Lewis play a vital role in a story that feels as if it couldn't be set anywhere else. The story then cuts from past to present as Fin remembers his school and student days when he worked as a roadie for Roddy's band. Despite the different timelines and the fact that the book changes from first to third person and back, the story never loses momentum on its way to a climax that is as shocking as it is unexpected.

For anyone who is new to the series, I would urge you to read them in order starting with The Blackhouse, then The Lewis Man, since there are aspects of this book that could give away the plots of the previous ones. My only disappointment is that this is billed as the last of the Lewis books. I hope Peter May can be convinced to reconsider - I believe there's more mileage in these characters and this setting yet. But if not, then this is a thrilling ending to what has been a truly great series - highly recommended.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fin McLeod is back in this rich and complex murder mystery., 19 Nov 2012
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Bookie (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a drop everything, settle down and immerse yourself book. It's like catching up with an old friend. I've been looking forward to The Chessmen for some months. It's been worth the wait, but having spent the day savouring every page, I'm sorry it's finished! I've read the first two in the trilogy and was keen to see where Fin McLeod went next. Each story works well as a standalone; there's enough backfill for each book to make sense. But to truly appreciate McLeod's psyche, know what makes him tick, to fully understand how early life events have shaped and developed him, they are best read in sequence. Each book is a whole, but also adds pieces to a larger picture.

In this outing, he's no longer a police officer. He returns to Lewis to work in the security business, employed to investigate lucrative poaching on a large estate. Characters from earlier books are back but from the outset its clear that Fin has largely laid to rest many of his personal ghosts. This story centres again, on friendships forged in childhood. But, as usual, there are secrets to be revealed. Trust and truth don't necessarily sit well together. Friends are not all they seem. McLeod is drawn into events dating back many years which influence both the present and future. Some chapters in his life are clearly closed, others open up, but is there a future? He remains inexorably drawn and now attached to his birthplace. Some ties, it seems are impossible to break.

Once again, Mr May has mixed all the right ingredients, in the right order to deliver an absolutely first rate crime thriller. The pace rarely slackens in a tightly wound plot. It kept me guessing, unsure where we were going next and who was implicated in some grisly events. It's perfect; taught and gripping and pulls the reader in from the first page. Once again, the story is played out against a richly detailed backdrop. I've never visited The Hebrides, but some parts almost feel familiar. The stark landscapes remain haunting and lyrical, shaping the stoicism of the residents. The dialogue is crisp and sparse. Few words are wasted. In addition to a top class murder mystery, Mr May's narrative also informs the reader in a simple and unassuming way. I have learned a great deal about the history and folklore of the islands. I'm left with the feeling that I've actually walked those bleak cliffs and bogs, the salt wind cutting the skin of my face. I've met the people who live there, shared their hopes, fears, love and loss. The characters are so well drawn sometimes it's as if you can see into their soul, good or bad. It's an absolutely cracking read. I loved it....but what next is the problem. This is a hard act to follow. Thanks Mr May.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The trilogy was enjoyable as a whole but..., 13 Jan 2013
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This last in the trilogy was a bit of a curate's egg, really. The first two books are a fair balance of mystery and back-story, with perhaps a little more emphasis on the protagonist's life story and motivations than is usual in most 'detective' novels than usual. This worked well for me, not only because it was heartening to read about a man in a, traditionally, 'tough-guy' vocation having emotional issues and experiencing fear without the author resorting to the usual sort of clipped, masculinist cliches in order to convey this, but also because of the descriptions of life on Lewis. Where this third falters a little, perhaps, is in the every-other-chapter approach to the past and the present. Switching between timelines is not of itself a fault in a novel; some books are constructed entirely around this. However, the pacing of this one is off to the point that when the reader gets to the alternate time line of the next chapter, the effect is not; 'Ooh, more information to shine light on what is happening and why it's happening - goody!', but rather; 'Oh no, not another flashback....get on with it!' The balance between back story and mystery is consequently, rather overthrown.

There are other issues, however, and that is that even though Scotland may have the highest murder rate in Europe, the body count is rather high and the events rather too coincidental to the hero's own life. I don't want to offer examples as these would effectively be spoilers, but really, the various denouments towards the end are just too much of a stretch.

In fairness, I should say that I have enjoyed Peter May's Lewis books overall, and that even with their flaws, would give the trilogy overall a 4 star rating, and recommend them to friends looking for an absorbing read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the other two, 20 Dec 2012
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Mrs. Diana Bedward (uk) - See all my reviews
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I was really looking forward to reading this, the third in the Lewis trilogy. I gave the first two each a five star rating, but not this one. You need to have read the first two books before this one, to understand the story,and the inter-relationships. I found the first 2/3 of the book rather slow but the final 1/3 was back up to standard, if a little unbelievable. At the halfway point I wasn't sure if I'd bother finishing it, in the end I'm glad I did.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Chessmen, 16 Oct 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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This is the third book in the Lewis Trilogy (the others being The Blackhouse, and The Lewis Man). The books feature Fin Macleod, who grew up on the isle of Lewis, and who has now returned there after years in the police force in Edinburgh. In his time back on Lewis, he has rediscovered old friends and enemies, and found he has a son who he did not know about. But the death of his young son in Edinburgh and his failed marriage still haunt him.

In this third book, Fin is now head of security on a privately owned estate on Lewis, and is tasked with finding out who is hunting game illegaly. He is reunited with an old friend, Whistler Macaskill who is a local poacher. But when Fin and Whistler find the remains of a body inside a crashed light aircraft from years ago (which has revealed itself from a bog), Fin begins to think Whistler may be more than just a poacher.

All these books seem to start with Fin trying to find a normal, peaceful life, then the discovery of a body, followed by a fairly detailed (and therefore rather gruesome) autopsy of the body. Once you get past that gruesomeness, the story settles down to Fin trying to solve the mystery of the death. There’s always way more to it than just a case of simple murder or death though – Fin’s past and present are linked in more ways than he could ever have imagined, and each layer is unfolded over the course of the story for the reader. Long-suffering Detective Sergeant George Gunn reappears in this book to help Fin with his inside knowledge, and provides some relief for the reader to the fairly relentless greyness of the landscape and some of the people.

Another good book, and one which to an extent nicely rounds off the story of Fin Macleod – so far. Definitely recommended as a good murder mystery read, and heightened in its enjoyment by its unusual setting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Peter May did not convince me of place, plot or characters, 11 Oct 2014
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I chose part 3 of the trilogy quickly because I thought I'd seen two on TV - actually, that was 'Shetland'. An interesting comparison in which Shetland beat this hands down. I was so set to like this book, billed as quasi-Scandinavian noir. Something didn't sit right at all about this book; looking at May's biography, I see that he's lived in France for many years, and it all fell into place. May seems to know about as much about Lewis as any holidaymaker; the descriptions are skin deep. Crime fiction has to really be on the pulse of the time and place they're describing, and frankly if you don't know a place intimately, at the current time, it's very difficult to achieve this. The same issue came up with 'Major Pettigrew's last stand' - that author's 20 years away from England meant the world wasn't quite right.

The plot meandered along: in the first few pages, you know a crime has been committed, then there's a massive chunk of the book where nothing happens on this at all - and the ending of the crime plotline was totally unbelievable in this day and age. The format was tiring - toggling back and forward between the far past, the present and just a few days ago. There was too much reliance on the first two books - not just in terms of maybe liking the 2 dimensional characters a bit more than I did, but the weird inclusion of random plot fillers - 'Whistler', the wild man who is involved mainly in a sub-plot but could have easily been left out, and a whole section at the end about repercussions from events in book 2 that seemed dumped in there, as if the author thought, 'Guess I'd better wrap all loose endings up now I've reached the end.' And the coming of age recollections just got plain sickly.

Oh yes, and he uses the phrase 'stentorian breathing' twice in one book, which is fairly unforgivable.

Certainly won't be recommending - no depth, 2d characters. no connection with the place.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One you won't be able to put down, 7 Nov 2013
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Final book of the Lewis trilogy set on Lewis/ Harris. The book contains themes/aspects of crime, mystery, relationships, honour, social history, humour, music = through the emotions, actions, life and memory of its central character, Fin. All other characters are also well-developed and believable. The beauty, culture and mores of the Western Isles are "visible" and powerfully woven into the main action. Fabulous.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars bit of a struggle, 6 Nov 2013
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I enjoyed the first two books but I don't really know why this story didn't grip me like the other two. I liked the back story with Whistler, his daughter and Fin but the dead pop star part just didn't do it for me. Shame.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Chessmen by Peter May, 18 Feb 2013
By 
Steven (Buckinghamshire) - See all my reviews
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The Chess Men brings to a close Peter May's excellent Lewis Trilogy. I've really enjoyed this series--maybe this final volume slightly less than the others though I still found it well-written and gripping. As with the previous books the story is told in the present with first-person narrative chapters filling in the back story (as with `The Black House' aspects of Fin's adolescence are explored).as the story unfolds, the links between past and present are revealed and the twist at the end is beautifully done.

So, why my slight feeling that this book doesn't quite hit the heights of the first 2? Firstly, I think there is a bit too much new material for a third book in the trilogy. Fin's new job as head of security on a private estate brings him back in to contact with his old school friend Whistler Macaskill who he first got to know while roadieing for the band Whistler played in. We are regularly shown how close Fin and Whistler were as teenagers--however this is the first we've heard of him--Given how much of `The Blackhouse' focused on Fin's youth, I'd have expected some passing reference at least to someone so important in his life. Of course, I may be doing May a disservice but if Macaskill has previously been mentioned I missed it. This did make me wonder if this wasn't originally intended as a trilogy and the third book has been tacked on to the end following the success of the first two.

I also felt that the story set in the present wasn't quite as strong as with the previous books. Whereas with `The Black House' and `The Lewis Man' the balance between the mystery and backstory was pretty much perfect. I felt here that the mystery element of the book didn't really kick in until the final few chapters and so at times it felt like there was quite a lot of padding going on.

These are very minor criticisms though and I think that, for me, May is partly a victim of his own success. I loved the first two books so much that the third was always going to be a hard act to follow and, as I said previously I still found it to be a real page-turner. The evocative descriptions of the Isle of Lewis are as beautiful as previously and the characters richly drawn and complex.

Overall then, I think this was a fitting end to an excellent trilogy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine end to a wonderful series., 30 Mar 2014
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Richard Latham (Burton on Trent) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy 3) (Hardcover)
A fitting conclusion to a remarkable and well planned trilogy.
Remarkably all three separate books stand alone but this brings matters to a dramatic conclusion. There is also so much new information and history revealed that tests our knowledge of the central character Fin Macleod and holds it up to the light to see if what we know remains true.
Above all these are stories about a little boy who makes choices as we all have to do in life but in his case it is a life beset with sorrow and for what he perceives are poor decisions.
He couldn't wait to leave these islands but is forever drawn back to them. In this book his wider friendships are explored, his inability to succeed in adult relationships as opposed to the bonds of childhood. He is a man of these Islands who couldn't forget his past; someone with regrets but without the means to move on with their life. The key relationship again is with Marsaili but despite the past they share there are no certainties with the future.
Peter May is an accomplished author these there books show off his talent and in The Chessmen he has given us a magnificent novel to conclude this Lewis series.
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The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy 3)
The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy 3) by Peter May (Hardcover - 3 Jan 2013)
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