The Blackhouse, by Peter May
Series: Lewis Trilogy #1
Published by Quercus, 1st September 2011
Genres: Crime, mystery, thriller, detective
Source: Borrowed from my brother
Trigger warnings: violence, death, domestic violence, child abuse
A murder. A secret. A trap.
A brutal murder is committed on the remote Isle of Lewis, in Scotland, and Detective Fin Macleod from Edinburgh is called in to investigate, as this case is similar to another he worked on in the past. Detective Macleod is also a native of Lewis and once knew the victim very well.
To solve the case, Detective Macleod must come face to face with people he has not seen for many years and confront his dark past on the island.
My brother sent me this book as I was short of books after my move to Scotland, and I am so glad he did because I really enjoyed it. I love a good detective thriller and this one had everything: a troubled and misunderstood detective, a mysterious and forbidding location, a whole host of potential suspects and lots of suspense.
Until the very end, I had no idea who might have committed the crime and what their motives might have been. There is so much mystery surrounding Macleod’s past on the island; lots of mentions of what happened that summer when the men went out to the rock to hunt gannets, but we never actually find out until the very end. It was very gripping and I just had to find out!
I also loved the descriptions of the Isle of Lewis; it seems like a truly beautiful remote place and I would love to go there someday. The description of the guga hunt was also very interesting. As part of a tradition dating back to the 15th century, men from North Lewis venture out each year to a desolate rock 40 miles out to sea, to hunt gannets. They spend up to 10 days living on the rock, exposed to all the elements, and bring back a harvest of some 2000 birds. Gannet is considered a delicacy, which is much loved on the island. This was such an insight into a very old and established tradition and it was very interesting to learn about.
The timeline was another aspect which helped to maintain the mystery and suspense throughout the novel. Although told from Macleod’s point of view throughout, the author switches between the present and various moments in the past. This gives insight into Macleod’s history and sheds light on several characters and their pasts.
My only issue with this book was that Detective Macleod doesn’t seem to do much actual investigating. He attends the post mortem and conducts a few interviews, but that is pretty much it. The mystery is solved almost by accident. So, if you are looking for a detective novel with lots of emphasis on the detective work, you may be disappointed.
My rating: 4/5