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Blackhouse by Peter May

Blackhouse (edition 2011)

by Peter May

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426None24,773 (4.05)43
Authors:Peter May
Info:Quercus (2011), Edition: UK airports ed, Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Blackhouse by Peter May

  1. 20
    Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: Similar settings; Shetlands/ Hebrides

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Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Peter May has created a crime fiction novel that begins like a serial killer mystery, but evolves into a complex study of roots, suppressed and tangled memories and relationships, and introduces characters that you will either despise or care enormously about, and some characters merit both responses as the mystery unfolds, layer by later.

Fin McLeod is a detective assigned to the Edinburgh Police Department in Scotland, but he has been on leave because of the tragic accidental death of his young son. When he returns, he finds that he has been temporarily assigned to a murder case on the Isle of Lewis, one of the islands of the Scottish Hebrides. He was selected, first because he was born there and knows the Gaelic tongue that is spoken there, and second, because the MO mirrors identically the unsolved murder that Fin was working before he abruptly went on leave.

His temporary attachment to the local police force is unwelcome by the local commander, who believes the crime and the perpetrator have nothing to do with any earlier cases on the mainland. The commander tries to minimize Mcleod's influence by giving him "busy work" assignments, but this gives him the time to reconnect with his childhood memories and experiences, not to mention many of the people themselves. The murder victim had been the school bully all those years ago, and any number of others may have felt justified in killing him.

The chapters that reveal Fin's bittersweet childhood are interspersed with the present day murder investigation, gradually building to a dramatic and harrowing climax and an unexpectedly sweet conclusion.

I received a digital copy from Edelweiss, and will be watching for more from Peter May. This is really a great read! ( )
  vcg610 | Apr 5, 2014 |
This is the first of a literary thriller trilogy set on the Isle of Lewis, the northernmost of the Outer Hebrides. Detective Fin Macleod, a native of the island, is dispatched from Edinburgh to investigate a gruesome murder which resembles an earlier one committed in the city. The victim in Fin’s hometown is a local bully, Angel Macritchie, with whom Fin was acquainted. Reluctant to return to the island after an absence of many years, Fin nonetheless uncovers the identity of the killer and forgotten secrets of his early years.

The narrative is split between third person limited omniscient from Fin’s viewpoint as he investigates the murder in the present and first person from Fin’s viewpoint as he revisits his troubled memories of his 18 years on the Isle of Lewis. One of the most memorable flashbacks is to that of the guga harvest, the culling of juvenile gannets, a rite of passage for young men from the island.

Detective Fin Macleod is introduced and he, like a lot of literary detectives, comes with a lot of personal baggage. His many flaws are revealed gradually as he narrates episodes of his past. He proves not to be a totally admirable human being, but he seems well aware of his shortcomings and seems to genuinely want to make amends for his failings. Life has dealt Fin some devastating blows so one cannot help but have some sympathy for him.

What is interesting about a lot of the characters is that they are all shown to have both positive and negative traits. First impressions are often shown to be inaccurate. Angel, the victim, has no shortage of enemies. “’There’s a whole generation of men from Crobost who suffered at one time or another at the hands of Angel Macritchie’” (52) and the general feeling is that “’Whoever did it deserves a fucking medal’” (112). Yet Fin admits that in his role as cook for the guga hunters, he succeeded “in earning their respect” (197) and his behaviour towards a paraplegic classmate is better than that of anyone else (255 – 256).

The quality of the writing surpasses what is often found in mysteries. Diction such as “fallen into desuetude” (49) and “the gloom of this tenebrous place” (215) is the exception in mysteries but seems to be the rule for Peter May. Of course, this book is more than a mystery; in fact, the murder investigation is secondary to the exploration of Fin’s past.

There are several surprises along the way but the author plays no tricks. There are clues throughout although they are subtle. For me, the biggest clues were Fin’s inability to remember certain things though his memory of other events is almost eidetic. The revelations at the end answer the questions the reader might have in the course of reading the book. Most readers will correctly identify the killer, but his motivation is not fully explained until the end.

The portrayal of life in a small town is such that anyone who has ever lived in one will immediately recognize as accurate. As a young man, Fin wants to escape “the claustrophobia of village life, the petulance and pettiness, the harbouring of grudges” (180) but as an adult he realizes the villagers’ “struggle for existence against overwhelming odds. Good people, most of them” (79). Most of us have had such mixed emotions about our hometowns.

I’m really looking forward to the second and third books of this trilogy. ( )
  Schatje | Mar 23, 2014 |
bookshelves: published-2009, tbr-busting-2014, series, winter-20132014, mystery-thriller, e-book, britain-scotland, gr-library, contemporary, first-in-series, medical-eew, religion, glbt, bullies, bedside, hebridean, zoology, teh-demon-booze, revenge
Read from June 19, 2013 to March 05, 2014

Here we go: They are just kids. Sixteen years old. Emboldened by alcohol. and hastened by the approaching Sabbath, they embrace the dark in search of love and find only death.

Excellent; looking forward to the next.

The Guga Hunt, Sula Sgeir. The chute used to drop the guga down to the boat.

3.5* The Blackhouse
TR The Lewis Man (Lewis Trilogy, #2)
TR The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy, #3)

aNobii ( )
  mimal | Mar 5, 2014 |
Enjoyable crime novel set on the Isle of Lewis, of a similar style to Ian Rankin's Rebus novels. Requires some suspension of belief to credit the miserable childhood that the hero suffers, but ultimately, very readable. I'll be continuing with the rest of the trilogy.

Recommended for fans of crime fiction. ( )
  cazfrancis | Feb 18, 2014 |
Peter May conjures up an atmospheric drama. Although this is billed as a police procedural, most of the story is taken up with introducing the main character, Fin MacLeod, as he returns from Glasgow to his home territory, Lewis, as part of an investigation into a possible serial murderer. There are lots of twists and turns along the way and May is very good at character & place, & there is a twist in the tale which I certainly didn't see coming. Promising introduction to the trilogy. ( )
  sianpr | Feb 15, 2014 |
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For Stephen, with whom I travelled those happy highways.
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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.


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


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


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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