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The Blackhouse by Peter May

blackhouseEdinburgh-based police detective Fin Macleod is still recovering from the death of his son when he is sent to investigate a murder in his hometown of Crobost on the island of Lewis, a windswept place in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. His superiors have picked him for his knowledge of the island and its customs, and because the method of killing bears a strong similarity to another recent murder in Edinburgh.

The victim of the Lewis murder was the town bully.  Hardly any of the villagers regret seeing him gone, Fin among them.  The knowledge of the victim’s identity brings forth a surge of nightmarish memories to Fin – those of childhood torment at the hands of the victim and his brother.  As The Blackhouse progresses, we find that there’s more to the background of the slain bully, and that he’s hardly the only one in the vicinity guilty of wrongdoings.

The book’s chapters alternate between Fin in the third person and him as narrator, where he recounts instances in his painful past.  Central to the story are the folk beliefs and isolation of the islanders, as is an annual hunt for seabirds on a solitary rock outcrop 50 miles north of Lewis.  The town of Crobost is fictional, but other real places figure into the story.  The seabird hunt is a real occurrence, although the name of the outcrop is changed slightly in the book.

This is my first reading of a Peter May book.  He’s been cranking them out for years (and writing extensively for BBC television) and you can tell he is serious about his craft.  I appreciate his thorough research for the story’s background.  May even includes a brief glossary of Gaelic words at the beginning.  I’d recommend The Blackhouse for anyone interested in the culture of the Outer Hebrides.  The book also has plenty of shockers in the story line to satisfy the mystery lover.

This one is the first in a planned trilogy. 

(William Hicks, Information Services)


One Response

  1. good blog – excellent book.

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