I was given a review copy of this book by Charlotte Cooper, Midas Public Relations
My Thoughts & Review
I’m a huge fan of Peter May. I really enjoyed the Lewis trilogy of books The Lewis Man, The Blackhouse andThe Chessmen and I was delighted that his latest book I’ll Keep You Safe is set once more back in the Hebrides on the island of Lewis. Reading the Lewis trilogy sparked off an interest in me for learning about the Hebrides as a whole and I still find them fascinating. This book was another learning experience for me as the details, both historic and present day about hand weaving cloth on the islands was an integral part of the background of the book.
(Read below in Peter May’s own words how he researched the details of the book)
The many Peter May fans and especially other fans of the Lewis trilogy will be delighted by this latest offering.
The book opens in Paris with the shocking death of Ruairidh Macfarlane when the car he is travelling in along with his suspected mistress is blown up by an explosion when both are killed. The explosion was witnessed by his wife and co-owner of Ranish Tweed, Niamh.
The married couple were in Paris on a business trip to promote Ranish Tweed to the Paris fashion industry.
Ranish Tweed was hand woven on the island of Lewis using traditional weaving methods. The beautiful and unique cloth was to die for, but neither of them expected that it actually would cost one of them their lives.
‘It was soft and luxurious and felt almost sensual when I ran it through my fingers. But it was the colours of it that attracted me …It makes me think of peat-cutting …all those different hues. The first new growth through winter grasses. Green and red. And the brown of the heather roots, and the blue of the sky reflecting in all those tiny scraps of water.
Ranish Tweed as described by Niamh McFarlane when her and her husband first took over the business when the original owner couldn’t manage it any more.
Popular with young Royals. Savile Row and fashion designers, the cloth was sought after, but after an initial hiccup the business soon became successful.
The couple, who had known each other since their childhood on the island, were an apparently happily married couple, which is why an anonymous email to Niamh shortly before his death informing her of her husband’s affair was a huge shock.
The grieving widow Niamh takes Ruairidh’s remains back to Lewis and returns to the beautiful home they’d built together, with hundreds of unanswered questions about their life and wonders if she really knew her husband at all. Their life leading up to recent events plays through her mind and we learn through her voice what events took place as she looks back through the years right back to the start of their relationship to find out, if anything, what exactly went wrong.
The French female detective investigating the case from Paris, Sylvie Braque, with family problems of her own, travels to the island to attend the funeral to try to discover who the perpetrator was and if they will also be in attendance.
Set against the backdrop of this beautiful but wild island in the Atlantic, buffeted by the bad weather and the churning seas, Peter May expertly sets the scene in a very atmospheric and often chilling read where we are presented with more than one suspect who could be responsible for the murder. No-one locks their doors on Lewis but with the wild weather and rough road tracks it is a challenging place to live, but with the death of Ruairidh there is a palpable, vivid broodiness. Danger stalks the island but who will be the next victim?
I was on the edge of my seat reading this cracking book. One of Peter May’s finest I would say.
Praise for Peter May
“Peter May is a writer I’d follow to the ends of the earth.”New York Times
“Peter May follows his superb Lewis Trilogy with an equally absorbing work”. The Times
“Exceptional…May is a writer to be cherished.”Daily Mail
From Peter May, the globally bestselling author of the Lewis Trilogy and Coffin Road, comes an explosive new thriller set between the UK and Europe – I’ll Keep You Safe.
Husband and wife, Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane have come a long way with their cloth company, Ranish Tweed, from their small Hebridean home to the world of high fashion. But on a business trip to Paris, cracks in their relationship start to appear. When Niamh receives an anonymous email informing her of Ruairidh’s affair, she is distraught. Only hours later Ruairidh is killed by a car bomb, leaving Niamh’s life in ruins. And when the police declare Niamh as the prime suspect in her husband’s death, her life as she knows it ceases to exist. When Niamh is allowed back to her home on the Isle of Lewis to return her husband’s remains, she is followed by French detective, Sylvie Braque. As Braque digs deeper into the couple’s relationship and Niamh replays her life with Ruiairidh, distant memories resurface and past feuds are reignited. As the past and present move closer together the two women find themselves drawn to a killer who will not back down.
About Peter May
Peter May was an award-winning journalist at the age of just twenty-one. He left newspapers for television and screenwriting, creating three prime-time British drama series and accruing more than 1,000 television credits. Peter May’s novels, Entry Island (2014), Runaway (2015),Coffin Road (2016) & were all top 3 Sunday Times bestsellers. He is published in 30 countries and has sold several million copies worldwide. The Lewis Trilogy has sold over 5 million copies in the UK alone. Peter has won numerous awards. In 2013 he won the ‘Best Crime Novel Award’ for ‘The Blackhouse’ at Bouchercon in the US. In September 2014, ‘Entry Island’ won the Deanston Crime Book of the Year and in October 2014 it won the Specsavers ITV3 Crime Thriller Book Club Best ReadAward. See http://www.petermay.info for more details. Or follow him at @authorpetermay
Peter May is available for interview and to write articles. For copies of ‘I’ll Keep You Safe’ and for further information, please contact Sophie Ransom or Alice Geary at Midas Public Relations on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 020 7 361 7860.
Researching I’ll Keep You Safe (in Peter May’s own words)
THE DARK WEB
In relation to the criminal element of the story, I explored the so-called Dark Web. This is the flip side of the internet we all know and use. It is where you will find society’s creepy-crawlies when you take a peek into the shadows that lurk beneath. The Dark Web, however, is not really that dark. It is a collection of publicly visible websites that hide the IP addresses of their servers. Anyone with a modicum of IT know-how can access it by downloading a special anonymity browser called Tor. Suddenly you have access to sites selling illegal goods and services in secure anonymity – child pornography, weapons, drugs, and the services of hitmen. Payment is made, again anonymously, with the use of Bitcoins whose derivation and destination are untraceable. Who knew it was that easy?
I delved into the world of ground-breaking forensic technology, where newly developed techniques allow investigators to recover fingerprints from bomb-blasted particles. Previously both criminals and investigators believed fingerprints were obliterated by bomb blasts. That was indeed the case with conventional fingerprints. It meant that bomb-makers were unconcerned about leaving fingerprints, on the basis they would be destroyed anyway. However, a new type of fingerprint has recently been discovered. It is left by the oily residue of the fingers which when exposed to extreme heat reacts chemically with metal, effectively etching itself invisibly into the casing of a bomb. Undetectable by conventional procedures, these fingerprints can now be recovered by applying a powerful electrostatic charge to the piece under examination, then dusting it with a fine carbon powder. And bingo! There is the fingerprint which had previously been so undetectable.
BODY PARTS AND BURIAL
Ruairidh’s death in a car explosion means there is very little of him left to repatriate for burial. I wanted to explore the practicalities of this. A consultation with my pathology adviser, Dr. Steve Campman, introduced me to the complex set of international rules and regulations that govern the transportation of human remains by commercial airlines. What was left – a limited number of pieces of charred flesh and bone – would be vacuum sealed in plastic bags following examination by a pathologist. A State-approved undertaker would supply the requisite paperwork once he had sealed the bags in a leakproof container. Only then would an airline accept the remains for transportation. These are the awful practical mundanities in the aftermath of such a death, and I thought it was important for Niamh to be seen dealing with the shock of them. There was also the question of burial when the box was flown back to the island. The French investigators would not allow it, but also there are no crematoria in the Outer Hebrides. So I went to visit the only funeral director on the Isle of Lewis, Alasdair Macrae. He suggested the tiny coffin containing Ruairidh’s remains would be placed within a normal-sized coffin and braced to prevent movement when the bearers carried it to the grave. I was also keen to respect island tradition in my portrayal of the burial itself. When I first went to the islands nearly thirty years ago, women did not go to the graveside and usually they would not even take part in the procession. However, I was fortunate on the day I went to the cemetery at Dalmore Bay on the west coast of Lewis – where the burial was to take place in the book – there was an actual funeral in progress. I witnessed a rare occasion, where the female mourners led the procession to the graveside carrying flowers, while the men followed on with the coffin. It was perfect for the circumstances of the burial that I planned to write, allowing me to break with island conventions describing events at the cemetery. I watched with fascination as the male mourners then picked up shovels to fill in the grave themselves.
My research took me to numerous island locations, including the home of Harris Tweed Hebrides at their Shawbost Mill; the independent mill at Carloway, only recently rescued from closure; the Grimersta Estate, with its impressive fishing lodge and complex water system. And of course the impressive Scottish baronial castle at Amhuinnsuidhe on the Isle of Harris, where I stayed overnight to absorb its distinctive and rarified atmosphere. On my final day on the Isle of Lewis I visited a legendary location; a stone bothy built into the cliffs of Mangersta, on the south-west of the island, by the parents of aid worker Linda Norgrove who was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and died during a failed rescue attempt by US forces. The bothy rests perilously on a ledge just below the top of towering cliffs of granite and gneiss that are hundreds of feet high, standing resolute against the relentless assault of the Atlantic.
My location research also took me to Paris, around the Place de la République, where only fifteen months earlier terrorists had rampaged through boulevards and alleyways. The aftermath of those attacks were still very much evident in the nightly gathering of armed police and vehicles along one side of the square. I also visited the world famous Paris cemetery, Père Lachaise, where I had the unsettling experience of coming across a full-sized bronze figure on the grave of French journalist, Victor Noir, who was shot dead in 1870 by Prince Pierre Bonaparte, the great nephew of Napoleon. The reason I found it so unsettling was that the face of this figure was the spitting image of myself as a young man.
In a search for authenticity I conducted in depth interviews. I had long conversations with the young island entrepreneur, Iain Finlay Macleod, whose Breanish Tweed became the inspiration for my fictitious Ranish Tweed. Gaelic actor and broadcaster, Derek Murray, showed me the arcane world of teenage island boys who, by tradition, steal the gates of their neighbours on Halloween. I also journeyed across the sodden moorland of north-east Lewis to the remote ruins of a house and church built by a pioneering baptist called John Nicholson. I picked this as a crucial location in the book, where the denouement is played out on its storm-lashed cliffs. The ruins of Nicholson’s house are also the basis for the book’s iconic cover image.
In closing it is worth noting Harris Tweed is the only cloth in the world to be defined by Act of Parliament, and is described in the 1993 Act passed by the Houses of Parliament in London, as “handwoven by islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides”. All Harris Tweed must also be examined by an inspector from the Harris Tweed Authority, and stamped with the famous cross and orb once it is established it has met all legal criteria and standards of quality. Through my connections with Harris Tweed Hebrides, I gained access to Première Vision, the twice-yearly fabric fair in Paris. Thousands of stalls are enclosed by lit plastic walls arranged in rows that criss-cross, in the giant exhibition halls of the Parc d’Exposition. This vast fair has cloth-makers from all over the world exhibiting their fabrics for designers and manufacturers ahead of the seasonal fashion shows which will determine what some people will be wearing in the spring or the autumn.
Peter May is available for interview and to write articles. For copies of ‘I’ll Keep You Safe’ and for further information, please contact Sophie Ransom at Midas Public Relations on email@example.com Tel: 020 7 361 7860.