Note: This review is by my husband Jim.
The Blackhouse begins as an interesting Scottish (like the Irish, a genre unto themselves) police procedure novel, which evolves into a complex study in character, and concludes as a well-wrought thriller.
Peter May is an excellent writer, and the setting of this book (the northernmost of the Outer Hebrides Islands of Scotland – a “godforsaken bloody place”) alone makes it worth reading. My wife and I have been to Scotland twice and have been exposed to Gaelic (pronounced in Scotland as “Gahlik”) culture and language. May replicates the atmosphere exactly as we remember experiencing it. He also includes a map and a pronunciation guide for the Gaelic names in the story.
A gruesome murder is committed on the Isle of Lewis that seems like it might be related to a similar murder on the mainland. Thus, Detective Sergeant Finlay (Fin) Macleod of the Edinburgh police force, who grew up on that remote island and left it 18 years before, is sent to Lewis from Edinburgh to investigate. Both the setting and the murder victim bring back traumatic events that still give Macleod nightmares, forcing him to come to grips both with what happened to him in the past, and what is happening now on this desolate island.
Rather than spoil the plot, which contains a number of nice twists and surprises along with a very satisfying conclusion, I recommend you get and read the book yourself.
Evaluation: This fine example of “Tartan Noir” won a number of literary awards; I could see why. It is the first of a series of three books, and although it works perfectly well as a standalone, I intend to continue with the series.
Published in the U.S. by Sterling, 2012