The Blackhouse by Peter May

blackhouseThe Blackhouse by Peter May
This edition: Quercus, August 2014
Originally published October 2012
Book 1 of the Lewis Trilogy

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.

Other glowing reviews appear in Euro Crime, crimepieces, Reactions to Reading, and The Game’s Afoot.

12 thoughts on “The Blackhouse by Peter May

  1. Now this is one I would like to read soon, but since I have a lot of those, don’t know when I will get to it. But I am looking forward to reading it.

    • Hope you enjoy it when you get to it, Tracy: I understand the need to tame the list of books to be read soon. Something always gets lost in the shuffle…

  2. No doubt the writing is terrific but I struggled with the transition from the present to the past. If the story stayed on the present, I’d have finished the book but when the author moved back to Fin’s past, I lost the connection, engagement and interest in the story. I guess the lack of criminal elements was the key issue as well as the transition. And for the record, I read plenty of writers who use flashbacks or transition from past to present or vice versa like Asa Larsson and others with no problem. I’d like to skip the first book in this trilogy and read the second if it was possible, otherwise, I’ll have to admit that this book just didn’t work for me and stop there.

    • I just finished the Asa Larsson that flashes back to Kiruna during World War I, and I think she handled the transitions well too even though part of the plot in the past wasn’t my favorite thing. I think I’d call The Blackhouse a sort of crime-adjacent book because the flashbacks seemed to take a long time to tie to the present: it seemed to be a different sort of story than what I usually read.

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