A Montreal cop reeling from his divorce confronts ancestral tragedy when he’s sent to investigate a murder on a remote island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Sime (pronounced Sheem, and Scots Gaelic for Simon) Mackenzie is called to the stark setting to investigate the murder of a local businessman. No one quite believes the victim’s wife’s claim that she was startled by an intruder and her husband was killed in the struggle. The investigative team, including Sime’s ex, Marie-Ange, appears to be merely marking time until they can formerly charge the newly minted widow. But something in the woman stirs Sime’s memory, though they haven’t met, and the disappearance of a local man makes it harder for this haggard policeman to accept his colleagues’ foregone conclusion. May (The Blackhouse, 2011, etc.) has constructed the book so that the investigation alternates with an account of one of Sime’s ancestors and his forced repatriation from Glasgow to Canada. As in the contemporary sections, the plotting is clunky, much of the writing is expository, and what’s meant to be descriptive too often feels as if the reader has opened the encyclopedia to an entry on Scottish agriculture of the 18th century (“the thatch from the roof, blackened and thick with the sticky residue of peat soot, that we laid on the lazy beds with kelp to feed the potatoes”).
Bleak settings needn’t be drab—Emily Brontë knew that. But May’s transplanted Scots have given up the gloaming for the gloomy.