Thursday 17 August 2017

Review: The Blackhouse by Peter May

Quercus, €15.90, hardback

The Isle of Lewis, the most northern of the islands in the Outer Hebrides, is the most remote and harshly beautiful place in Scotland where the difficulty of existence seems outweighed only by people's fear of God. Police detective Fin Macleod was born and brought up on the island, but left to go to university in Glasgow and has never returned . . . until now.

The naked, eviscerated body of one of his former classmates has been found hanging from a rafter, and the modus operandi is uncannily like that of another ugly murder he is investigating in Edinburgh.

With his personal life in turmoil, returning to Lewis brings disturbing and long suppressed memories of his childhood and youth flooding back. Just before Fin had left he had taken part in a savage island ritual, the hunting of the gugas (gannets) on the even more remote outcrop of rock called An Sgeir, a trip that resulted in a horrific tragedy.

As the islanders leave for this year's hunt, Fin knows he's close to solving the murder, but history seems set to repeat itself.

A beautifully written, haunting and powerful examination of the darkness of men's souls and how hard it can be to bury the past, The Blackhouse is also an outstanding page-turning murder mystery originally published in French.

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