Once more my reading travels have taken me to the Scottish isles. I LOVE this setting! When I ponder why, I realize that like all settings that are located on islands, the setting makes the story akin to a ‘locked room’ mystery. A limited number of people, thus setting the scenes where suspicions abound amongst people who probably think they know each other well.
In this case, the island of Kersivay is also experiencing the tail end of a hurricane, so access to the island is limited and it is up to the locals to sort out the crime.
From the publisher:
Peter Parsons, a radio producer, flies to the Hebridean island of Kersivay to find out how the locals feel about the new prison-hospital for psychopaths. When a sex offender escapes and a woman is found dead, Peter’s trip takes a dark turn and the black-outs he experiences causes him to question his own actions.
The novel was originally published in 1962 and is somewhat dated as a result. I didn’t mind this at all as I was transported even more vividly to the time and place that the author described. A time before Internet, cell phones, and social media.
Peter Parsons is no stranger to Kersivay as his family had lived there for generations . His father was the laird and he grew up in the ‘big house’. Now, back in his line of work as a radio producer, he wants to garner public opinion from the locals about the new prison-hospital which has been built on the island.
Recently, Peter has been experiencing severe headaches which often culminate in blackouts. He experiences one such episode shortly after his arrival in Kersivay. When he regains consciousness, he realizes that a murder has been committed and he cannot even be certain of his own innocence! The locals assume that as one of the inmates from the new prison hospital has escaped, that it is he who has murdered a young local woman.
One of the first people he encounters upon his return to Kersivay is his boyhood friend, ‘Nappy Neil’ who now works for the local hotel as chauffeur, handyman and general dogsbody. Delighted to meet up with his old friend again, they reminisce and discuss how the people of Kersivay have changed since their boyhood. They seem more prosperous and the atmosphere has become altered somehow… The old women of the island declare that “evil has come to Kersivay”. Superstition or fact???
The CID from Glasgow are called in, but are unable to gain access to the island because of the storm. Then the telephone lines go down. Peter and Nappy Neil attempt to apprehend the murderer along with the local policemen. Friendships are tested and danger lurks. Then, after finding the body of the escaped prisoner, it is clear that there is a second murderer in Kersivay and that he/she remains at large.
“there’s a panic in somebody’s breastie tonight”
I very much enjoyed this mystery, and the characters were well wrought. I did have a hard time accepting the precipitate ‘love at first sight’ part of the storyline. Peter meets the hotel owner’s granddaughter, Rona. Within thirty-six hours they are professing undying love and calling each other ‘darling’. It seemed far-fetched and didn’t add anything to the novel in my opinion. Also, though the description and the writing were enjoyable, and the setting sublime, the plot was predictable and the ending expected.
I learned several Scottish words while reading this novel. Among them were: stravaiging, throughither, cromak, shufti, howff, and shebeen.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Endeavor Press via NetGalley for review purposes.
Angus MacVicar (1908 – 2001) was a Scottish author of more than 70 books, several plays, and countless radio and television scripts. . His early writing was interrupted by wartime service with the Royal Scots Fusiliers. MacVicar, whose father was a Presbyterian minister in the Church of Scotland, lived most of his life in the village of Southend, Argyll. After attending the University of Glasgow he went on to work for the Campbeltown Courier. MacVicar also presented the BBC television program Songs of Praise.