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The Blackhouse: Book One of the Lewis Trilogy (edition 2011)

by Peter May

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890819,932 (3.99)119
Member:murraymint11
Title:The Blackhouse: Book One of the Lewis Trilogy
Authors:Peter May
Info:Quercus (2011), Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Crime, Police Procedural, BCC, Scotland, Hebrides, Rural Community

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The Blackhouse by Peter May

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First of the "Lewis Trilogy", set on the island of Lewis, in the Hebrides. A gruesome murder occurs in Edinburgh; there is then one with the same modus operandi on Lewis. Is it the same killer or a copycat? And why on an isolated spot with conservative, Gaelic-speaking inhabitants? DI Fin Macleod is sent to investigate, as he is from there originally. There are really two narratives: one being the murder investigation and the other, an interspersing of Fin's childhood and adolescence until he leaves the island to attend college on the mainland--Scotland. He breaks all ties until he returns then as part of his investigation, resumes them. An annual trip to the rock "An Sgair", which can be a kin of coming-of-age to older teenaged boys coming along figures strongly in the story and the events on it are clues to the solution. A deftly written story with insights into the culture and language. I'm glad a short guide to pronunciation of some of the Gaelic names and expressions was included. ( )
  janerawoof | Nov 8, 2016 |
The Blackhouse by Peter May, first of a trilogy, isn't really so much a police procedural, as I'd expected, as a dark psychological study set in the Outer Hebrides. The island of Lewis provides an inhospitable setting and the author spends a lot of time describing the life, countryside and weather of this isolated part of the world. I learned more than I wished about the annual guga (bird) hunt.

In some ways, The Blackhouse, has a Scandi-Noir flavour. Nearly all the characters have secrets, especially our protagonist, Fin Macleod, an Edinburgh policeman who grew up on the secluded island.

Fin's story unravels very slowly and is told via
alternating chapters of the present in third voice and his past in first voice. This device worked fairly well and didn't impede the flow of the narrative for me.

I was disappointed with the outcome of Fin's story, feeling May relied on a too-often used backstory. Also, what should have been a suspenseful ending was too quick and easy in my opinion.

Overall, I liked, rather than loved, The Blackhouse, partly because I never developed a strong connection to the any of the characters. I'll likely try the next book, The Lewis Man, since I've already invested time with the author, who I found slightly long-
winded. ( )
  Zumbanista | Nov 3, 2016 |
A very enjoyable book; well written excellent atmospheric story with a very good sense of time & place. Tension was well maintained right to the end. ( )
  JW1949 | Aug 31, 2016 |
A cracking read. Based on the Isle of Lewis and foc using on the backstory of Fin, whilst trying to find out who committed a recent murder which may be linked to a murder in Edinburgh that Fin is investigating. Recommend this book heartily, and look forward to continuing with the trilogy. 4.5 Stars ( )
  Andrew-theQM | Jun 20, 2016 |
Detective facing in depth exploration of his own psyche. But two deaths by falling is a bit of a stretch. ( )
  Elleneer | Jun 13, 2016 |
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Epigraph
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
- A. E. Housman, “Blue Remembered Hills”
Tri rudan a thig gun iarraidh: an t-eagal, an t-eudach’s an gaol.
(Three things that come without asking: fear, love and jealousy.)
- Gaelic proverb
Dedication
For Stephen, with whom I travelled those happy highways.
First words
They are just kids.
Quotations
Marsaili and I went down to the beach at Port of Ness. We picked our way in the dark through the rocks at the south end of it, to a slab of black gneiss worn smooth by aeons, hidden away from the rest of the world by layers of rock that appeared to have been cut into giant slices, stood on end, then tipped over to lie in skewed stacks. Cliffs rose up above us to a night sky of infinite possibilities. The tide was out, but we could hear the sea breathing gently on the shore. A warm breeze rattled the sun-dried heather that grew in ragged, earthy clumps on shelves and ledges in the cliff.
...someone had a fire lit in their hearth. That rich, toasty, unmistakable smell of peat smoke carried to him on the breeze. It took him back twenty, thirty years. It was extraordinary, he thought, how much he had changed in that time, and how little things had changed in this place where he had grown up. He felt like a ghost haunting his own past, walking the streets of his childhood.
... there was an unspoken bond between them all. It was a very exclusive club whose membership extended to a mere handful of men going back over five hundred years. You only had to have been out to An Sgeir one time to qualify for membership, proving your courage and strength, and your ability to endure against the elements. Their predecessors had made the journey in open boats on mountainous seas because they had to, to survive, to feed hungry villagers. Now they went out in a trawler to bring back a delicacy much sought after by well-fed islanders. But their stay on the rock was no less hazardous, no less demanding than it had been for all those who had gone before.
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Book description
A brutal killing takes place on the isle of Lewis, Scotland — a land of harsh beauty and inhabitants of deep-rooted faith.

A MURDER

Detective Fin Macleod is sent from Edinburgh to investigate. For Lewis-born Macleod, the case represents a journey both home and into his past.

A SECRET

Something lurks within the close-knit island community. Something sinister.

A TRAP

As Fin investigates, old skeletons begin to surface, and soon he, the hunter becomes the hunted.
---------------------------------------------------------------

The isle of Lewis is the most desolate and harshly beautiful place in Scotland, where the brutality of daily life is outweighed only by people's fear of God. When a bloody murder on the island bears the hallmarks of a similar slaying in Edinburgh, police detective Fin Macleod is dispatched north to investigate. Since Fin himself was raised on the island, the investigation represents not only a journey home but a voyage into his past, as he attempts to rediscover the life and people he left behind.

Each year twelve island men, among them Fin's boyhood friends, sail out to a remote and treacherous rock called An Sgeir on a perilous quest to slaughter nesting seabirds. No longer necessary for survival, this rite of passage is fiercely defended against all the demands of modern morality. But for Fin the hunt harbours a horrific memory which might, after all this time, demand an even greater sacrifice.

The Blackhouse is a crime novel of rare power and vision. It is a murder mystery that explores the shadows in our souls, set in a place where the past is ever near the surface, and life blurs into myth and history.

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When a grisly murder occurs on a Scottish island, Edinburgh detective Fin Macleod must confront his past if he is ever going to discover if the killing has a connection to another one that took place on the mainland.

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