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

by Peter May

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6155515,832 (4.01)73
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

Work details

The Blackhouse by Peter May

  1. 20
    Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: Similar settings; Shetlands/ Hebrides
  2. 00
    Naming the Bones by Louise Welsh (tina1969)
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English (53)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
The man May does know how to write, how to conjure up a scene, bring characters to life and build a plot. And, his research is spot on. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
Fin Macleod is a brooding, impulsive detective, investigating a horrific murder in Edinburgh, and recovering (or not) from the death of his 8 year old son and the unraveling of his marriage.

Word comes from the isle of Lewis in the northernmost Hebrides of a similar murder, and Fin is sent back to the island where he grew up, suffered a number of tragedies, and has only returned once in 20 years.

Fin is the main character, but the Isle of Lewis, perhaps most famous for the viking Lewis chess set discovered there, might as well be. Cold and hostile, you can feel the wind howling across the machair (the peat fields), smell the peat fires burning, and ride the mountainous seas that the Islanders cross for the annual pilgrimage to An Sgeir, a barren, rocky cliff/island, where the Guga birds are slaughtered for the annual feast.

The Blackhouse is named for the ancient rock houses that dot the island, mostly now ruins rather than a place to live. The book is long, but revelations come hard and fast the entire book, each a bit darker than the previous one, until the book crashes on the events that transpired, then and now, on An Sgeir. May captures the casual cruelties of children and how those resonate throughout a lifetime.
Between revelations we're treated to May's gorgeous prose that captures the look, the feel, the smell and the cold of Lewis.

You're in for a treat. ( )
  viking2917 | Jan 18, 2015 |
This was an OK detective story. Way more "background" relative to the investigator's boyhood, though germaine to the story, than I would have liked. Could have been condensed, and not lost anything. ( )
  junebedell | Jan 2, 2015 |
This was recommended by a few people, but I avoided it because it seemed dark and grim. One more recent recommendation prompted me to give it a try. Is it dark and grim? Yes, but the characters, story, and landscape made it worth it. ( )
  KrisMcG | Dec 20, 2014 |
There is something alluring (at least for me) with crime novels placed on islands, especially those far up in the north, with bad weather and people that have know each other for generations. I mean it wouldn’t be the same if it would be set on a Caribbean paradise, for instance who would ever wanna leave in the first place, well if they are poor perhaps but anyway…

Fin Macleod (From the clan Macleod…sorry I’m a child of the 80’s and I love the Highlander) returns home to Isle of Lewis 18 years after he left the island to become a police. An old classmate has been murdered and the murders similarities with a previous murder in Edinburg. But this is not an easy case to take on for Fin, he most face people and events from his past and at the same time find a killer who could be one of the people he used to know.

Peter May has written a very intense and dark crime novel. As we follow Fin in present day trying to find a killer we also get flashbacks to the past, to the events in his childhood that led to Fin in the end leaving Isle of Lewis. This is one of the best crime novels I have read in a while, with a nerve-racking ending.

Highly recommended!

5 stars!

Review also posted on And Now for Something Completely Different and It's a Mad Mad World ( )
  MaraBlaise | Dec 11, 2014 |
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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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