“I’ll Keep You Safe” by Peter May is set in the picturesque Outer Hebrides. The handwoven Ranish Tweed fabric is center stage, and introduces readers to the cutthroat world of fashion. Niamh, on a trip to sell Ranish Tweed in Paris, receives an e-mail, “Your husband is having an affair.” A terrible explosion means that nothing will be the same for her again. “I’ll keep you safe,” Ruairidh had told her, but he had not. She is left on her own to mourn, to grieve, and to deal with demons and with murder.
The setting is really the key component in the story with the other characters just going along for the ride. Multisensory descriptions take readers right to the islands with a coastline at once beautiful and dangerous. Towering cliffs and rocky outcrops are punctuated by unexpected scraps of beach with the purest gold or silver sand. The sea is impossibly blue, peppered by all those tiny basking islands
May’s multi-sensory descriptions bring scenes to life. Traffic moves slowly like a river of coagulating blood. The air is filled with the smell of garlic on sour breath, of sweat on man-made fabric, of faded perfume and hair gel. Hanging globes reflect light from white walls; whisky bottles glow amber on lines of glass shelves.
The story is told from alternating points of view, and chapters alternate back and forth in time. Little personal notes and comments make the characters real and remind readers of the personalities of the characters. First person flashbacks by Niamh help readers develop a personal connection to her and her relationship with Ruairidh.
And then the ending, a surprising, and an astonishing twist I did not see coming. I will not reveal it, but it was shocking.
I received a copy of “I’ll Keep you Safe” from Peter May and Quercus. I could not put it down, both for the mystery and for May’s amazing use of language to paint a vivid picture and tell a compelling story. I highly recommend it.