A Winter Grave by Peter May

I wrote about the blurb on this book back in the post about blurbs. Not the most exciting blurb although a good summary of the story. But what the blurb didn’t mention is that this story is set in the year 2051 with flashbacks to today and there has obviously been a major climate event and the sea levels have risen dramatically. (It does say this at the bottom of the inside flap but I never read that part!) Which leads me to wonder why that wasn’t made clearer. Did the publishers think we wouldn’t pick up a detective story set in the near future? Would it put May fans off? I loved the Lewis trilogy so it would have to be bad to put me off one of his books.

So, the next question is – Is it essential that the story is set in 2051? Well, having read it I would say no. The setting does have an impact on the modes of transport because there is so much water and on the methods of finding out information and detecting whether moving images have been manipulated but the premise of nuclear material stored underground and someone covering up a leak does not. That could happen/has happened in the present day. That aside, however, this was a ‘normal’ detective story with the flawed detective, family rifts, gambling and violence.

I do, however, like May’s writing with the prologue describing the scenery very effectively.

She is conflicted. Such a day as this should lift the spirits. She is almost at the summit. The wind is cold, but the sky is crystal-clear blue, and the winter sun lays its gold across the land below. Not all the land. Only where it rises above the shadow cast by the peaks that surrond it. The loch, at its eastern end, rarely sees the sun in this mid-November. Further west, it emerges finally into sunshine, glinting a deep cut-glass blue and spangling in coruscating flashes of light. A gossamer mist hovers above its surface, almost spectral in the angles mid-morning sunshine. Recent snowfall catches the wind and is blown like dust along the ridge serpentining to the north.


The ‘she’ mentioned above is Addie, the daughter of Brodie the detective, although the two have not spoken in over a decade. And now he has been asked to go and investigate a murder in the area that his daughter discovered. In the intervening years, his daughter has married the local policeman and had a child. Time in the same place eventually works its magic and they do talk and start to clear up misunderstandings but all along the murder case rumbles, exploding every now and then with more deaths and whistle-blowers.

The front of the book has a quote about May being a terrific writer doing something different. I would say that May is a terrific writer but that he is trying something different. It may take a few more attempts before a future setting in a ‘traditional’ detective story can stand on its own but it is worth experimenting with and exploring further.

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