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Blackhouse by Peter May
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Blackhouse (edition 2011)

by Peter May

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7516812,377 (3.99)85
Member:Sonny_Bramblett
Title:Blackhouse
Authors:Peter May
Info:Quercus (2011), Edition: UK airports ed, Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Blackhouse by Peter May

  1. 30
    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 (66)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
A gripping tale of murder, deceit and long buried secrets set on Scotland's West Coast.
( )
  Laurochka | Feb 6, 2016 |
What happens on The Rock, stays on The Rock.

And boy did it ever. This book is couched in terms of being a mystery because there is a dead guy and there is a cop, but it didn’t need to be presented that way and as a matter of fact, very little time and attention is given to solving the crime. No, this is Fin’s story and it’s a pretty interesting one although the final piece of why was a bit much. There was no telegraphing it whatsoever and even though there is a logical reason why not, it still was a bit too jarring.

For those with a limited threshold for gore, you’ll have a hard time with the crime scene and the post mortem; they are very descriptive. Not all the descriptions are stellar or terribly original though and I noted many cliches including angry seas and brooding landscapes. Oh and if you’re going to quote Blade Runner, frigging quote Blade Runner, don’t bury it in the text and think no one will notice. The map included at the beginning of the book is helpful, but not as much as the Gaelic (pronounced gah-lick) to English pronunciation guide. Mostly it was for my own enlightenment more than reading since I’m a sight-reader who doesn’t subvocalize. A lot of the Gaelic is left in the text, too, and is easily parsed by context.

Despite the somewhat quotidian beginning (Fin is sent by his superiors to his hometown where he immediately locks horns with the local commander, an outsider who is threatened by Fin’s involvement and his deep ties to the town), the book goes in some interesting directions and the tension and atmosphere are well conveyed. Fin relates his story bit by bit, drawing out the suspense, but not in an annoying way. There is enough revealed each time that it doesn’t stagnate or lag. The final solution though was shocking for the sake of shocking. I mean, we already had our killer and there were a few plausible ways things could turn, but it was still out of the blue. Still don’t know if my shock is a good or a bad thing. Either way, I’ll be checking out the next two books in the series. May obviously loves his homeland and presents it well. From things like the Lewis Chessmen to the guga harvest (which could make some people mad at the slaughter, but was shown without prejudice one way or another). ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Jan 26, 2016 |
Although this is somewhat dark, the unusual location, the characters and their back stories all come to life so vividly that you are swept away, hoping somehow that things will get better. Wonderfully strong writing - descriptions, dialog, action, emotions.

I love the way we learn about Fin's childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood as he revisits people and places he has left behind long ago. The mystery of Fin's life, and his understanding of all its tragedies, take center stage rather than the crime he is supposed to be investigating. ( )
  Connie-D | Jan 17, 2016 |
The Blackhouse is the first novel in a projected trilogy featuring Detective Sergeant Finlay (Fin) Macleod of the Edinburgh police force. The setting is the windswept terrain of the Isle of Lewis, the northernmost of the Outer Hebrides. Macleod thought he’d escaped the island for good, but now he’s been dispatched to his home village to investigate a gruesome murder of the local village bully that resembles another case in Edinburgh. Despite his reluctance to return to the island he had escaped almost two decades before, Fin is grateful for the temporary hiatus from his misery filled life in Edinburgh.

This is an intricately plotted story that alternates between Fin interviewing old friends and possible suspects in the murder, and the back story of young Fin and his friends as they grow up on the island. There’s a melancholy tone to the “young Fin” chapters as we relive his lonely boyhood. The most bizarre episode from the past is the annual “guga harvest,” a mass slaughter of seabirds on the barren nesting island of An Sgeir, observed by the locals as a male bonding ritual and primitive rite of passage for adolescent boys. Descriptions of this slaughter are not for the faint of heart.

I thought it was a completely absorbing read and I have already picked up the other two volumes of the trilogy, The Lewis Man and The Chessmen.

( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Very interesting background to this mystery, looking forward to the next two. ( )
  Superenigmatix | Jan 16, 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.
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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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