- Audio CD: 1 pages
- Publisher: Hachette B and Blackstone Audio; Unabridged AUDIO edition (5 June 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1549174169
- ISBN-13: 978-1549174162
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 13.3 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 249 g
- Customer Reviews: 2,725 customer ratings
The Blackhouse: The Lewis Trilogy: The Lewis Trilogy , book 1 Audio CD – CD, 5 June 2018
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About the Author
Peter May is a Scottish television screenwriter, novelist, and crime writer. At age twenty-one, he was named Scottish Young Journalist of the Year. He was a prolific television scriptwriter in the UK for nearly twenty years and has won several literary awards for his novels. He now lives in France with his wife.
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Very well written .
‘There was no greater reminder of your own mortality than to witness another human being laid bare on a cold mortuary table.’
Fin knows the man who was murdered, he was at school with him. He’s a man who many had reason to dislike. But as Fin investigates, he finds memories of his own life on the island, events he’s not thought of for a long time. There are people whose lives have been blighted in different ways, people trapped on the island who would have preferred to leave it as Fin did. The story moves between the past and present of various characters, of the children they were and the adults they’ve become. Fin needs to come to terms with his own past as part of the process of finding the murderer.
‘It was no good looking backwards, even if you had no notion of where it was you were going.’
I really enjoyed this novel. Mr May’s depiction of Lewis, of the characters he’s peopled the island with, the difficulties associated with living in such an isolated place. This novel is the first in a trilogy, and I’m about to start the second.
And this is where Peter May demonstrates great insight into the island psyche. The popular misconception is that because people know one another, they have no privacy and no secrets. In fact, the opposite is true. Although islanders - at least on Lewis - don't all know one another, they do tend to bump into the people they do know quite often. There's nowhere to hide, and that means people guard their privacy very closely. Everyone has secrets and people learn to hold their tongues.
Thus, as Fin Macleod returns to his native Lewis after 18 years away, he finds people very closed and reticent. Even his childhood friends seem to give him a wide berth. There is certainly no hint of a fatted calf being slaughtered. Instead, it is more a case of Fin finding ghosts from the past. We have stories of his first fumbled kiss as an 8 year old in a hayloft; the expedition to scale the roof of Lews Castle to spy on bathing beauties; the place on the annual guga hunt on Sula Sgeir.
As an aside, there was a book written about the guga hunt (The Guga Hunters) by Lewis poet Donald Murray. This is a name of a character in The Blackhouse, and I doubt that this is coincidental. And on the subject of names, many of them are Gàidhlig and only a couple are spelt out in terms of pronunciation. I imagine much puzzlement amongst non Gàidhlig speakers at the likes of Seoras, Seonaidh and the farm at Mealanais.
Peter May's writing is evocative, and although Crobost is invented (I took it to be an amalgam of Cross, Swainbost and Harbost), the novel is otherwise faithful to the geography of Lewis. It is this sense of place that lifts The Blackhouse into something very special. There is the beauty and the bleakness; there is the loyalty with the undercurrent of menace.
The slow pace allows for the development of character and it is to Peter May's credit that he does not fall into lazy stereotypes. The people of the island are shades of grey - nobody is all good and nobody is all bad. They have different takes on the same situation; they act in consistent but surprising ways.
The novel has a slight failing in that the ending, when it comes, has to resolve the murder. It does this in a slightly far-fetched, melodramatic way. It's a shame when the rest of the novel is so realistic and measured, but I suppose it is the price that must be paid for having used a murder as the framing device.
I would recommend the novel to anyone who wants to learn about life on Lewis or the island psyche. As a thriller or whodunit, it will probably fail to deliver and frustrate with the meandering digressions into back story.
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However, there are aspects of the novel that I found less enjoyable. There are long passages describing various aspects of life on the islands, which no doubt are quite realistic but some which I found particularly unsettling (e.g. the descriptions of how young gannets are caught and killed). I also felt that the plot lost its way at times with too little focus on the actual investigation of the murder and too much on the back story of Finn Macleod. I also did not particularly warm to Finn's character ... having very recently lost his 8 year old son and facing the breakdown of his marriage in Edinburgh, he appears to very quickly 'forget' them as he wallows in his memories of his upbringing on Lewis and the relationships with the islanders of his youth who still live there. The long descriptive passages slowed the pace of the story down for me while the 'action' sequences seemed too short in comparison.
So if you enjoy stories brimming with atmosphere and melancholic reflections of one's youth and self-pity then you'll no doubt find much to enjoy in this novel but if you like your murder mysteries to focus on how the police solve the crime, then you may find this novel a little disappointing.
This book is a mix of genres and took a while to get into for that reason. The murder investigation is a contemporary story, written in the third person. It reads like most other good crime novels of today. But Fin's back story, while being integral to the investigation, is told via the first person and at a slower, more reflective pace. I found these switches a little disorienting to start with, which is the main reason I gave it four starts instead of five.
I was recommended to read this in preparation for a trip to the Outer Hebrides. And for this it worked very well. The island, its weather and its nature, is a major star of the book. I look forward to seeing it in real life. And I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries, especially those set in Scotland.
Written in two tenses the book throws you back and forth so put you fully in the picture of how life was and how life has come to be for the main protagonist Fin.
The author is very descriptive in his writing but it made me feel fully invested into the characters, there lives and the island. It was as if I was there with them. Although overly descriptive prose is not to everyone's liking.
As someone who is looking to move to the Hebrides next year I absolutely loved the gentle introduction and explanation of Gaelic language. A language I will endeavour to get a grip of, despite it's unusual spelling and pronunciation!
The story moves quickly and soon you become engrossed in the plot and just can't put your Kindle down.
No spoilers here but lets just say as soon as I finished The BlackHouse I went straight into Book 2 The Lewis Man as I just had to know what was happening!
The most irritating was the constant going back and forth from chapter to chapter. I’m sure this is the publishers idea and not the writers. Let me say now to the publishers,they couldn’t be more wrong, if other readers are like me ,then they Hate it !
Then i went straight to Lewis Man and then Chessmen. All three make a really good read. They are separate books, but all easily hang together.
I'm going to paste this review for all 3 books
The Black House isn't a bad novel at all, but I could't find any trace of irony, self-irony, or humour in it and this turned it into a tedious reading (maybe Gunn should've been given more prominence). Moreover, I found the Marsaili-Fionnlagh-line a bit of cliché.
I also didn't like that we (readers) weren't given any clue until the two-third of the novel of what all the fuss was about, the word amnesia makes an appereance on the last pages when it could've been used to keep alive the readers' curiosity about the men's past.
Now I think about it more, I felt being left out while reading the novel, and if that was Peter May's intention then I should've given him five stars.
The book starts out slow as each character and the their significance is introduced but about half way through the book the pace increases and it becomes clear that friends may not always be friends. There is a sense of an underlying tension that will culminate in a major climax.
As the book progresses it becomes clear that each encounter in the present day is inexorably linked to major events of Fin's childhood. Not only must Fin deal with his friends he abandoned when he left the Isle of Lewis, but he is confronted with some major life changing truths that threatens his life. This is a fascinatingly thrilling book to read and the description of the Isle of Lewis is truly three dimensional. The characters are strong and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, the Lewis Man.