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Blackhouse by Peter May
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Blackhouse (edition 2011)

by Peter May

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5034820,248 (4.03)56
Member:Sonny_Bramblett
Title:Blackhouse
Authors:Peter May
Info:Quercus (2011), Edition: UK airports ed, Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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 (47)  French (1)  All languages (48)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
The Blackhouse is a rarity, a mystery novel that truly surprises. I can't recommend it highly enough, whether it is for the excellent descriptions of the Isle of Lewis or the care with which the characters are drawn. Top rate. This book is the first of a trilogy and I greatly look forward to the next two.

After writing the above, I looked at the negative Amazon reviews and without diminishing my own enthusiasm, I can understand the readers complaints. No the plot isn't perfect and yes the flashback chapters are way too long and yes, the characters did not have to make the choices they did. But perhaps these readers did not grow up in a Scottish Calvinist church, especially one physically in Scotland. Re-read the part about the wee breakaway churches and the Sabbath-day locked swings that May describes and think of the ways that the grim Scottish weather plays into this grim worldview. It takes nearly superhuman strength to break away from the rigidity that shapes this culture, even today.

I received Blackhouse by Peter May (Quercus Books) through Netgalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Aug 16, 2014 |
When a murder similar to one he is already investigating occurs in the village of Crobost on the Isle of Lewis, Inspector Finlay (Fin) Macleod is not well pleased to be sent to aid the local constabulary. For one thing, the Isle of Lewis is the northernmost island of the Hebrides at the ass end of the world with nothing much going for it besides crappy weather and an even crappier economy. For another, and even worse for Fin, this is a homecoming and not one he had ever wanted to make.

For most of the novel, the murder serves as backdrop for Fin’s memories and as a vehicle for him to deal with all of his demons. Almost as soon as he steps foot on the island, his memories began to come flooding back, memories he had thought he had safely stowed away: the tragic death of his parents when he was very young leaving him to be raised by an aunt who gave him everything he wanted except love; his first love now married to his once best friend; and Angel McCritchie the victim he has come for, the bully who had made his early years a misery. And he has arrived just in time for the annual ‘guga harvest’, a strange ritual going back centuries in which a group of male islanders head out to an even more godforsaken island to slaughter thousands of birds, once a needed addition to the islanders’ diet, now a kind of bonding ritual and rite of passage for the men and boys of Crobost and, for Fin, of all his bad memories, the very worst.

The Blackhouse, the latest by author Peter May is part police procedural, part coming-of-age, and part literary novel. It is a beautifully written, sometimes poignant, occasionally creepy, always powerful, and completely absorbing tale. May’s depiction of the island and its inhabitants is pitch-perfect – he clearly knows this island and these men and cares about them and he makes the reader know and care about them as well. It should be noted, though, that this novel may not be for everyone. It is almost unrelentingly dark and bleak and there are some very disturbing passages including the guga harvest. But for those who like their books a bit on the raw side, this is one absorbing tale. Best of all, it is the first in a trilogy and I will definitely be looking out for the next in the series. ( )
  lostinalibrary | Aug 8, 2014 |
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

I remember reading about the Lewis Trilogy several times in the past couple years, and I was intrigued by the setting and by the positive reviews. It was a very, very good read even though it felt a little bit light on the crime novel elements I was expecting.

The main character is Fin Macleod, a detective in Edinburgh who grew up on the Isle of Lewis who returns there when a murder much like one he investigated in Edinburgh takes place. A bully from his youth is found disemboweled in an abandoned building. While this is in a sense a police procedural, the book feels more like stories about growing up on the Isle of Lewis, including a vivid chunk of the book that takes place in the annual hunt of guga (young gannets) that goes back for generations.

There are some holes in the book that I assume are addressed in the other two books in the trilogy, specifically about different chunks of the characters’ backstories, but the focus on Fin’s childhood and the ritual of the guga hunt made up for those gaps. Fin is also a sympathetic character at the beginning of the story and because of his childhood, which makes all the focus on the past so good.
  rkreish | Aug 8, 2014 |
4.5 stars
First in a trilogy featuring DS Finlay (Fin) Macleod of the Edinburgh police, THE BLACK HOUSE returns Fin to his roots on the Isle of Lewis, most northern in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Fin has been on leave for a month following the death of his son when he receives a call to come in to the station. HOLMES has suggested Fin be called in on a murder investigation on the Isle of Lewis as it closely resembles one he was investigating in Edinburgh.


The murder of Angel Macritchie, eldest of the two village bully brothers, has forced Fin to return home. Angel and Murdo plagued Fin and his friends from the first day of school onwards so there are plenty of suspects. However, similarities with an Edinburgh murder have prompted HOLMES to suggest Fin be included in Angel’s murder investigation against his and the officer in charge’s druthers.

THE BLACK HOUSE alternates between the present and flashbacks to Fin’s childhood growing up on the starkly beautiful but harsh island. Fin escaped a life of stagnation on Lewis by scoring well enough to go to the University in Glasgow.
Fin, past and present, is doleful and borderline depressed. His melancholy becomes more pronounced on Lewis faced with the people he left behind eighteen years ago. As he investigates his memories return, coinciding with evidence, clues, and hints to the killer. Angel’s murder was personal and has much more to do with Fin than Angel, a way to kill two birds with one stone. To find a killer Fin must face and, most difficult of all, come to terms with the past he’s tried so hard to leave behind, especially his last summer on Lewis.

Gritty, dark, and bleak THE BLACKHOUSE isn’t for everyone. For those who don’t mind a walk on the dark side, THE BLACKHOUSE holds many rewards.

~The atmosphere and location are characters as much as the people making THE BLACKHOUSE truly compelling. I didn’t want to stop reading and when I did have to it preyed on my mind.
~Mr. May educates as well as entertains. The Isle of Lewis is brought to life by his vivid depiction of its landscapes, seasons, people, language, customs, and traditions. Intertwined with the mystery and playing a pivotal role is the unique history of the Isle of Lewis.
~Deep complex characters I can’t wait to get to know better. Fin is one of the most tortured protagonists I’ve come across. He spends a lot of time inside himself and seems to feel things deeper than others, even as a child. While it doesn’t make him the easiest of companions it does make him extremely interesting.
~Beautiful writing that draws the reader despite the forlorn atmosphere.
~A mystery that’s more psychological-mental in its solution than procedural. It’s personal.

While I can’t wait to visit Fin and the others I will take the time to read some lighter fare before venturing back to the Isle of Lewis.

Reviewed by IvyD for Miss Ivy's Book Nook & Manic Readers ( )
  ivydtruitt | Aug 4, 2014 |
Here I'm reviewing The Chess Men, third in the trilogy. These plots are stretching my credulity a bit with the ever-expanding range of Fin's teenage experiences, and it was not strictly a whodunnit nor indeed a thriller. However, the setting was terrific and I enjoyed the read. ( )
  lexieconyngham | Jul 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
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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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