The Night Gate by Peter May #BookReview #BlogTour

In a sleepy French village, the body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree. A week later a famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house. The deaths occurred more than seventy years apart.
Asked by a colleague to inspect the site of the former, forensics expert Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter. Two extraordinary narratives are set in train – one historical, unfolding in the treacherous wartime years of Occupied France; the other contemporary, set in the autumn of 2020 as France re-enters Covid lockdown.

And Enzo’s investigations reveal an unexpected link between the murders – the Mona Lisa.

Tasked by the exiled General Charles de Gaulle to keep the world’s most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as it is moved from château to château by the Louvre, she finds herself just one step ahead of two German art experts sent to steal it for rival patrons – Hitler and Göring.

What none of them know is that the Louvre itself has taken exceptional measures to keep the painting safe, unwittingly setting in train a fatal sequence of events extending over seven decades.

Events that have led to both killings.

The Night Gate spans three generations, taking us from war-torn London, the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Berlin and Vichy France, to the deadly enemy facing the world in 2020. In his latest novel, Peter May shows why he is one of the great contemporary writers of crime fiction.

It is such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for The Night Gate today. Many thanks to Peter May, Riverrun Books and Sophie at Midas PR for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

The Night Gate is the final book in Peter May's Enzo Files series but the first I have read. I must admit to being a little hesitant to read it, in case I had missed too much of what has gone before but I love dual timeline books, particularly when the historical chapters are set during the Second World War so couldn't resist making Enzo Macleod's belated acquaintance. I'm happy to confirm that I found it reads beautifully as a standalone novel; any key facts about Enzo's past are woven smoothly into the plot and I'm sure that returning readers will enjoy catching up with his family members and faces from his past.
I know authors have faced something of a conundrum when it comes to including mentions of the current pandemic in books set in the present, and that some readers are reluctant to read novels that reference Covid-19 but Peter May ably demonstrates how it is possible to reflect what is happening in the world right now without it casting too dark a shadow on the storyline. We learn that Covid has impacted Enzo's own family but the affect on his own day-to-day life - he realises his age makes him more susceptible to the virus and already conscious of the risks of viral infections, his use of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes is fastidious - will be familiar to us all. However, it's the threat of another lockdown which is most significant with the added pressure to complete his investigation lending a real sense of urgency to the case. 
He is initially drawn to the small French village, Carennac as a favour to a colleague who has asked him to examine the site of a historical murder but it turns out that the local gendarme, Capitaine Michel Arnaud is rather a fan of the retired forensics expert and manages to coax him into looking into the very recent bloody death of a renowned art critic.The case seems fairly straightforward - they have a lead suspect, although no real motive as to why either man should have been in a house belonging to an elderly woman. Enzo wonders whether the two deaths may be linked and as a present day character recounts the incredible story of the woman tasked with keeping the Mona Lisa safe, we discover how and why Carennac becomes the site of the two murders. 
The chapters set during the war feature Georgette Pignal, from her fateful meeting with Charles de Gaulle in 1940 to her eventful training in the Outer Hebrides and then her years steadfastly protecting the Mona Lisa - La Joconda - from the avaricious clutches of both Hitler and Göring. The two timelines meld together beautifully and I enjoyed switching from one to another but the chapters following the resolute, if sometimes quick tempered Georgette are perhaps the most engaging. The sense of time and place is perfect throughout and it's obvious that these are locations well known to the author, and given the circumstances which inspired this book - Peter May discovered that the double garage of his home in France was used to store priceless artworks during the War - The Night Gate feels like a real labour of love. I knew that steps were taken to protect precious artefacts from the Nazis but it was fascinating to learn more about the complex logistics involved and the bravery of those who did so much to keep these works safe. I enjoyed the inclusion of real-life figures like Rose Valland too, it adds to the authenticity of the storyline and pays homage to their considerable courage.
The intricate plotting allows for the truth behind the murders to be gradually revealed, with the tension building almost imperceptibly until both Enzo and Georgette discover the dreadful truth about how far people are prepared to go to achieve their aims. The clever weaving of past and present examines how history continues to influence lives, both on a familial and broader scale and the exploration of whether violence can be passed down through the generations is intriguing. Thoughtful, compelling and richly immersive throughout, The Night Gate is a wonderful conclusion to this series and will surely captivate both old and new fans alike. Highly recommended.

The Night Gate will be published by Riverrun Books, an imprint of Quercus on 18th March 2021. Purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookstores whenever possible, either by buying directly or ordering through

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Peter May was born and raised in Scotland. He was an award-winning journalist at the age of twenty-one and a published novelist at twenty-six. When his first book was adapted as a major drama series for the BCC, he quit journalism and during the high-octane fifteen years that followed, became one of Scotland’s most successful television dramatists. He created three prime-time drama series, presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland as script editor and producer, and worked on more than 1,000 episodes of ratings-topping drama before deciding to leave television to return to his first love, writing novels. He has won several literature awards in France, received the USA’s Barry Award for The Blackhouse, the first in his internationally bestselling Lewis Trilogy; and in 2014 was awarded the ITV Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year award for Entry Island. Peter now lives in South-West France with his wife, writer Janice Hally.