Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes

Lament for a Maker cover

Lament for a Maker by Michael Innes was first published in 1938 and the story is told by five different characters in seven sections.

In the first part the story is narrated by Ewan Bell, a shoemaker from Kinkeig and it’s written in his dialect which I think might have put some readers off but really it shouldn’t be a problem for people.

Ranald Guthrie is the laird of Erchany Castle. He’s hated in his part of the Scottish Highlands, because of his meanness. Ranald spends his time counting his gold coins and quoting parts of an ancient Scottish poem by William Dunbar – which you can read here. A maker or more usually makar is a Scottish word for a poet, usually a court poet. The title has been brought back into use now and at the moment the makar is Jackie Kay.

Anyway, back to the book.

Ranald Guthrie has a young niece, but if you believe the local gossip she might actually be his daughter – or maybe he has designs on her, the locals will believe anything of him, he’s seen as being the devil. Christine, the niece has fallen for a young local man but Guthrie despises his family. It’s a bit of a Romeo and Juliet situation.

When Guthrie falls to his death from his own battlements on a wild wintry night there’s speculation, did he jump or was he pushed? His American relatives had tried to have him put into an asylum in the past because of his strange behaviour. Of course John Appleby of Scotland Yard is going to get to the bottom of it.

This is a very convoluted mystery, well worth reading, in fact it’s often regarded as being Michael Innes’s best book.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2016 Challenge.