The Isle of Lewis is the most desolate and harshly beautiful place in Scotland. 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. Each year twelve island men 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 still fiercely defended. But for Fin the hunt harbours a horrific memory which might, after all this time, demand an even greater sacrifice.
©2011 Peter May (P)2011 Isis Publishing Ltd
This was not at all what I was expecting, it is not so much a crime novel but a thriller that moves between past and present with a hugely likeable, sympathetic main character. Evokes the atmosphere of life on the Isle of Lewis, mesmerising narration and a gripping storyline. Can't wait for part 2 in the series.
Peter May has blended the past and present seemlessly in this story. I know the island of Lewis well (and have eaten guga) so I had a head start in enjoying the descriptions of its beautiful north and west coastline. A bit dour in places, The Blackhouse intermingles a wonderful chronicle of island life with a different but gripping detective story. It is also beautifully narrated and I thoroughly recommend it!
The book starts as if it will be a straight-forward detective novel but develops in a much more complex exploration of how childhood experiences can affect the rest of a person's life. The author's knowledge of life and traditions on the Island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides greatly enriches the novel with authentic details of how tough life can be battling the elements and instills the narrative with an other-world atmosphere. By switching the story back and forth between the childhood of Finn, the visiting detective, to help investigate a murder on the island we learn of the changes that have occurred since he left nearly 20 years earlier. An atmospheric book with some lyrical writing that is unusual in detective fiction. The reader reproduces the different Scottish accents remarkably well.
This was quite an involved tale about the life of a detective - Fin, Ok there WAS a murder in it .... but the story was more about the life of our hero rather than the detection of the crime, it was an interesting enough read - but I was disappointed as it was not what I was expecting and I probably would not have purchased it if I had known.
A sense of place, some novels just don't have it....this does in Spades! The remoteness, the parochial insularity, the feeling of claustrophobia echoed in Artair's breathing difficulties, invade the reader and trap him on the island until the dénouement. A wonderful but exhausting experience. More, please.
This is a truly remarkable book. It has remained with me for some time. It is almost an assault on the senses, you can hear the cry of the sea birds and feel the bite of the icy wind. The writer has captured the atmosphere and life on the Isle of Lewis in a wonderful and realistic way. Woven between his descriptive narrative is a compulsive thriller involving many different characters. Beware, it is not for the faint hearted but beautifully written and read with style. Very, very highly recommended.
A gripping listen due to both the wonderful writing, which evokes the place so well, and the reader who is excellent his reading voice fits the sense of place and is a joy to listen to. Although I knew early on who had "done it" this did not detract from the listening pleasure as it is a story well told. I look forward to hearing the next in the series although sadly I see it is not read by the same reader.
An unusual Detective Story that swings from present to past mirroring the events taking place. On the Island of Lewis local traditions play a big part in a persons life from birth to death. This was shown superbly in both the writing and the audio narration. .
It brought back memories of living in Ness, the Guga hunters and characters similar to the real hunters.. The smell of the peats, the nicknames and the whole Island atmosphere brought to life in this capturing Detective novel that kept me riveted till the climatic end.
Kildonan by the sea
“Knew, too, that it wasn’t just Mona he wanted to run away from. It was everything. Back to a place where life had once seemed simple. A return to childhood, back to the womb. How easy it was now to ignore the fact that he had spent most of his adult life avoiding just that. Easy to forget that as a teenager nothing had seemed more important to him than leaving.”
― Peter May, The Blackhouse
Fin MacLeod an Edinburgh detective is sent to the Isle of Lewis to investigate a crime that is similar to murders in the big city, he is chosen because he came from the island, he lands with deeper roots than he even remembers, with history and links to many of the people he has to interrogate.
“Long stretches of empty road linked bleak and exposed settlements huddled around churches of various denominations. The Church of Scotland. The United Free Church of Scotland. The Free Church of Scotland. The Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)—the Wee Frees, as the free churches were universally known. Each one was a division of the one before. Each one a testimony to the inability of man to agree with man. Each one a rallying point for hatred and distrust of the other.”
― Peter May, The Blackhouse
This is a beautifully atmospheric book, with memory and the past opening all kinds of doors that are far more complex than most detective stories. this is a proper novel that develops far deeper and with more emotion than most.
“Life went past you in a flash, like a bus on a rainy night in Ness. You had to be sure it saw you and stopped to let you on, otherwise it was gone without you, and you would be left with a miserable walk home in the wind and the wet.”
― Peter May, The Blackhouse
A must if you are interested in scotland or have lived in the islands of scotland, the familiarity of small communities and the secrets they hold, the traditions and the history that influenced the culture. A thriller of first class and entertaining to the last page.
“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.)”
― Peter May, The Blackhouse
Love all sorts of books, Eng Lit degree, but not just classics - SciFi, modern... just like good writing!
This is so much more than a novel about detective work. this is about life, and death, on the outer Hebrides - its a wonderful, powerful story and the narrator is excellent. I'm now listening to the second of the trilogy and its every bit as good. Its grim and dark, and somehow wonderfully uplifting.
I can't recommend it enough
"What a great story!"
This is my first Peter May book. It won't be my last! I finished the novel in 2 days; I just couldn't stop listening. What an intriguing plot set in the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. Steve Worsley does a fantastic job as narrator. Unfortunately, as I was looking for another May book, I noticed that Worsley was not the narrator listed in other novels. The ending of the story, though joyous in one way, is quite surprising in another. The book is filled with marvelous real life characters all portrayed quite authentically by the narrator.
This is well-worth the credit.
"A stunning mystery novel"
This is mystery writing at its very best, to which I would add that it is also contemporary fiction at its best. That might sound a little elitist, but I think there tends to be a perception that somehow mysteries don’t quite rank up there with modern “literature”. Actually, I do find that what I consider to be a 5-star mystery isn’t always a great novel, but The Blackhouse is definitely both.
I think what distinguishes a great mystery from the very good is the richness of the sense of place created by the author, and the emphasis on character rather than plot. That’s why I think that this book by Peter May puts him alongside some of the other “mystery” writers whose work I most enjoy and respect: James Lee Burke, Elmore Leonard, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell and Tana French to name but five. Like Dave Robicheaux and Clete in Burke’s Lousiana/Montana books, Finn is a wonderfully constructed – and highly flawed – character.
A bonus of this novel is that the story of Finn’s first two decades is interspersed throughout the book with the contemporary murder mystery. It’s like having two novels for the price of one. In a way each part could stand alone as a novel, but in The Blackhouse they are so skilfully interwoven as to complement the understanding of the other.
Let me tell you how good this book is. About three years ago I had to give up reading because of illness, since when I’ve listened daily to audible.com books (probably 400 by now). Unfortunately the second and third parts of the trilogy of which The Blackhouse is the first are not available as audio books in Canada, but I so much want to continue following Finn’s story that I’ve ordered printed copies of both books.
One drawback, if you can call it that, goes back to the richness and decriptions (indeed the integral nature) of the setting (the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides off the north-west cost of Scotland; unfortunately I’ve never been there but I did once spend two weeks camping on the adjacent islands of Benbecula and South Uist). The playing time of Part 1 of the audio version is a little over five hours, but it took me at least eight hours to listen to, because I had my iPhone at hand and was constantly looking up place descriptions, photographs and maps. I even searched for a song that was mentioned in the story, and watched videos of the gaga hunters.
There’s no need to say any more, except buy and enjoy!
The detective's memories of his childhood on the Isle of Lewis made the story come alive. My monthly credit will be used for the next installment of this trilogy.
"A truly great story in every respect!"
Descriptive, enthralling, satisfying!
Yes I loved the way it kept on unravelling....with surprises all along the way. All loose ends were tied together nicely by the final chapter. It also painted a vivid picture of the island and it's people
Steve Worsley told the story beautifully capturing the essence of each character. So well done!
What a different story. All the right ingredients and an insight into what makes us tick. A study in personalities. Read this if you want to be held captive in a murder mystery.
"Fascinating look at life on a remote Scottish Isle"
It is hard to say, I think that it would be a great read/listen either way.
Kind of. It was more the visualisation of the island and the lifestyle that had me enthralled.
No, this was the first one.
It makes me want to travel to the Hebrides and explore the islands!
A good story in a great setting. Give it a try.
"Best read in quite some time ...."
This novel popped up as an Audible recommendation and I decided to toss it into my library a few months ago. Finally got around to listening and was quite surprised. It was a really good listen.
The setting combined with the narration was fantastic. The flashback and forward structure worked really well and the found the narrator did a great job and pulling me into the story.
This is much more than the typical murder mystery and I really can't say anything bad about this title. I look forward to starting another novel by Peter May and hope the next novel in this series arrives soon.
"What a great read. I couldn't stop listening."
A very entertaining story told back and forth over the years and a really surprising ending. Being Scottish myself, the book transported me back in time and brought back many memories of the rugged west coast of Scotland and of words I had not heard in a great many years. A terrific story and beautifully narrated.
"What a great find."
I bought this book as I was running short of reads and it was on sale. What a wonderful surprise! I loved learning the customs and traditions of the people of the Isle of Lewis and the wonderful description of this tiny Scottish island. Finn's memories of his childhood were well incorporated into an intriguing plot. I would certainly reccomend this book.
No to the author.
Yes to the narrator if the book interested me enough.
No, but I won't read the rest of this series. The story was depressing, not that that makes it a bad book but it meandered around without any anchor for any of the characters. Especially the lead. The landscape could have been the main character here, but that fails to happen also.
I'd run out of ink.
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