The outer Hebrides in crime novels of Peter May

Room H
Tuesday, 1 September 2015
17.15 – 19.00
built heritage, landscapes, local identity, ruralspace, sustainable development, tourism

Peter May is a Scottish writer, now living in France. He is known for his detective stories, whose a trilogy located in the Outer Hebrides, in Scotland. The main character for this serie is Fin MacLeod, a former police inspector. The first book, The black house, has been published in 2009, the second, The Lewis man, in 2011, and the last one, The chessmen, in 2012.

Thanks to the stories, the writer presents the landscapes and people of these islands. Novels show current time life and legacies, especially in religious, cultural and agricultural fields. These islands were very isolated from Scotland, and the Minch strait was very dangerous (storms, ocean currents). Then, local society has better preserved the Celtic culture, and until now a majority of the people continue to speak Gaelic language. In the same way, the crime novels describe the changes in agriculture and breeding, in relation to harsh conditions, whose “blackhouses” ruins are the contemporary witnesses. Outer Hebrides are the North-western part of Europe, exposed to the constant assaults of ocean and changing weathers against the oldest gneiss of the continent. Then, the writer always speaks about the marchair, a poor soil for sheeps. More largely, landscapes are rolling moors of blanket peat, lochs and rivers. Therefore, today, islands are become a paradise for fishers.

Hence, I would like to propose a text on Peter May's Hebrides to bring out current situation (with tourism), transformations of daily life and past difficulties, with their consequences (emigration, drink question…).

Franck Chignier-Riboulon
CERAMAC-Université Blaise Pascal
chignierriboulon [at]

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