- Quercus Publishing Plc
- Publication Date:
- 01 September 2011
- Crime, Thrillers and Mystery
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I have tried to read a few other mysteries by Peter May, and always abandoned them part way through, and figured his style of writing and characterization just weren't for me. However, my husband told me I would really like The Blackhouse, and the setting in the Hebrides intrigued me, so I decided to give him another try. Wow. I loved the story and Fin Macleod, the cop who was raised on Lewis and comes back to investigate a murder there that may have tie-ins with one he investigated in Edinburgh. The story is told in the present, and in flashbacks to his rather bleak childhood on the island, with some very funny moments as well. The characterization was fantastic as I felt that all of these people were real, and I wondered if the author himself grew up there. It was an excellent mystery that kept me guessing all the way through, and enjoying very much the journey, which was over 400 pages, and I wouldn't remove a single word. Highly recommended!
Detective Inspector Fin MacLeod of the Edinburgh police is at a low point in his life. He is suffering from depression for multiple reasons when his bosses called him in and tell him it's time to shape up or ship out in a manner of speaking. The case they give him will sent him back to the Isle of Lewis which is part of the archipelago of the Outer Hebrides. He left there eighteen years ago returning once only for the funeral of the aunt he lived with for several years. He had never looked back since he had felt a great sense of freedom and lightening of the spirit once he came to the city. Many of his friends had also wanted to leave but circumstances has kept them home. Now perhaps one of them was the perpetrator of the brutal murder of a bully from childhood and on.<br/><br/>Fin tries to reconnect with his past but he finds this difficult since his friends have altered mostly for the worse. Artair his closest childhood friend is a very bitter drunk, Donald once a free spirit is now a forbidding minister and his old girl fried, married with a child is almost unrecognizable.<br/><br/>Peter May takes Fin back in his memories through a first person POV and the reader sees that there was a lot of sadness in Fin's life. Fin appears to be an inconsistent character at times but as his journey into his past is revealed he makes more and more sense. The community in which he grew up helped hide his skeletons and permitted him to survive.<br/><br/>The murder may seem to be a side issue at times but solving it sheds light on all the mysteries in Fin's life. This was a great read.
The backstory: The Blackhouse is the first mystery novel in Peter May's Lewis trilogy. May is also the author of two other mystery series: The Enzo Files and The China Thrillers.The basics: One month after the death of his son, Fin Macleod is not eager to get back to work as a detective in Edinburgh. When a man is murdered on the Isle of Lewis, Fin's remote home village, the grisly crime scene details are similar to a murder Fin worked in Edinburgh, he's ordered back to the Isle of Lewis, where he hasn't visited in twenty years.My thoughts: The Blackhouse is satisfying in two very different ways. First, it's a compelling police procedural, a genre of which I'm particularly fond. Second, it's a fascinating character study of both Fin Macleod and the residents of the Isle of Lewis. May masterfully interweaves both storylines and timelines in a way that enhances both elements. As a reader, I was always eager to uncover clues to both Fin's past, both through flashbacks and current conversations with locals, and solve the pressing crimes.The verdict: The Blackhouse is a deeply satisfying literary mystery infused with strong elements of ethnography and fascinating character development. As soon as I turned the last page, I ordered the second volume of the trilogy, The Lewis Man from the Book Depository (no official news of a U.S. release yet, but I'd expect it in fall 2013, about a year after The Black House was published.)
I read a lot of fiction. But seldom does a book grab and hold me like The Blackhouse. Once the story got going, I literally couldn't put it down. On one memorable night I read straight through until midnight. Next day, I found some uninterrupted quiet time, shut myself in the guest room and finished it. Guys like me who live for reading learn to savor experiences like this. The murder mystery aspect of the plot was well done, but secondary to me. Far more appealing were the bleak Outer Hebrides setting and great local color, reminding me of Tawni O’Dell’s Back Roads. I've always been interested in Scottish writers and settings -- the result of my years in pipe bands and many memorable Scots I met as part of that effort. Now maybe I'm just a sentimentalist, but my favorite part of this book was the bittersweet subplot involving Fin MacLeod and his old "friend" Marsaili MacDonald. Anyone acquainted with regret, missed opportunities and the pull of past relationships will enjoy that aspect of it, mingling memory and desire. In particular, the description of their first year at university rang true, reminding me so much of my own experiences and unfortunate decisions. I was very happy to learn that the sequel, The Lewis Man, features Fin. And I hope it brings back Marsaili as well. The almost unbearable romantic tension she brought to The Blackhouse meant a lot to me. An interesting coincidence: there's a well-known bagpipe tune called Stornaway. My first pipe band played it. Stornaway is also the name of the only town on the Isle of Lewis, where this story takes place. Small world. One of these days, I'll make the trip to the Isle of Lewis myself. I want to see Stornoway.
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