Edinburgh detective Fin Macleod tried to escape a troubled life on the Isle of Lewis, but now he’s been pulled back home to investigate a copycat murder. Set in the small village called Crobost, an isolated point of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, Fin must confront his painful past, broken friendships and loss. What follows is an excellent crime story, the first in The Lewis Trilogy, and one which is clouded by Fin’s conflicted character and Scotland’s ever-changing landscape.
The Crobost victim is schoolmate Angel Macritchie, the playground bully who preyed on the weak. No different now, most in town were not sorry to see him gone, but his brutal murder leaves many questions. Fin’s investigation is intertwined with the people he knew on the island, and he can’t avoid facing his boyhood friend, Artair Maccines and the girl they rivaled over, Marsaili Macdonald.
Clues point to several suspects, whose stories help depict what life is like in this treeless and remote land, where young and restless teenagers face bleak futures as crofters or mariners. One of these stories is the ritual of the guga harvest, an annual trip to the rock island called An Sgeir, where a selected group of men spend two weeks killing young gannets to bring back to their people. The trip through rough seas is dangerous, the time on the rock is treacherous and is a rite of passage for those who are chosen. Reference to an unspoken tragedy leads the reader through an additional investigation of what happened the year Fin was selected to go.
May tells the story, bit by bit, alternating between the present and Fin’s first-person telling of the events that drove him off the island years earlier. As Fin uncovers motives and truths, they lead to an incomprehensible finish, explained only in the book’s final pages and suggesting future relationships between its characters.
Mystery and crime readers will enjoy this interesting plot and setting. I recommend The Blackhouse to these readers and anyone who likes conflicted characters and complicated relationships. Enjoyed and highly rated by everyone in my library Whodunits Book Club, we are looking forward to completing the series!
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