First up, Maigret in New York by Georges Simenon.
Maigret is now retired and living the quiet life in the country. His rural idyll is interupted one morning when a young man, Jean Maura, comes to call. He is French but his father lives in New York having moved there as a twenty year old. Just recently Jean's been getting letters from him that have given him cause for concern. He wants Maigret to take the boat to New York with him to help discover if his father is in some kind of trouble. It's the last thing the retired police inspector wants to do but eventually he is persuaded. Immediately the ship docks Jean Maura disappears. Maigret is now in America, speaking very little English and with no clear idea of where to begin to solve this mystery. But is there a mystery at all? The father is being very cagey and unconcerned. And if there is a mystery, has Maigret any business interfering where he has no jurisdiction?
This is #27 of the Maigret books, written in 1946 according to Goodreads. I was surprised to find him retired in it because there are loads more books after 1946 so I can only assume the timelines skip around a bit or he comes out of retirement as I remember Hercule Poirot did. Odd. Anyway, I enjoyed Maigret's expedition to New York very much. His culture shock was severe, partly because of the language barrier, but mainly to do with the idea of personal freedom that pervades the American way of life: the French are much more into officialdom, form filling and so on. Poor Maigret found it hard to cope. I did get a bit confused about who was who and who'd done what to whom and when, but got it sorted in the end. Not bad but think I prefer the earlier Maigret outings for atmosphere. And as to ITV's new productions of Maigret, starring Rowan Atkinson, I enjoyed them but am not really sure he suits the part. Suspect he will grow on me.
Next, The Lewis Man by Peter May.
Fin McLeod is back on the island of Lewis after divorcing his wife and giving up his job with the Edinburgh police. He has nowhere to live so is outdoors in a tent. A body has been found in a peatbog and at first it's thought to be thousands of years old, until a tattoo of Elvis is discovered on one of its arms. This is now a murder enquiry. Fin becomes involved when DNA reveals that the murdered young man is related to the father of Marsaili, his girlfriend when he was a teenager, and mother of his son. Marsaili's father, Tormod, has always professed to have been an only child with no living relatives. The problem is that he is now in the throws of dementia and answers to questions can't be relied upon. How on Earth can the truth be got at after all these years?
Well, this was quite an enthralling tale. It was a slow burner, gradually working up to being quite fascinating by about halfway when family history really starts to become the important aspect of the story. There are two parallel timelines going on, the events of the modern day dealing with Fin's investigations and personal problems, and that of sixty years ago told by Tormod in the first person. It sounds confusing but is not at all and works extremely well. The whole thing is compelling, it was a book I kept wanting to pick up read more of to find out what happened, but not just what happened... 'who' exactly people were. To be honest, as a whole, it was rather a sad tale so don't pick this up looking for a cheerful story because you won't find it. What you will find is a beautifully written, poignant book with a wonderful sense of place in the island of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides. There are some gorgeously descriptive passages that transport you right there, in all weathers... good, bad and downright diabolical. This is book two in May's 'Lewis' trilogy, the first book being The Black House which I read in 2013. I hope to read the final instalment, The Chessmen, later this year.
The Lewis Man is my first book for Peggy's Read Scotland 2017 reading challenge and my book three for Bev's Mount TBR 2017.