“For God’s sake, Ceit!” Ulleam comes after her, frustration added now to desire and anxiety, and his feet slide away from under him, for all the world like he has stepped on ice. He lands heavily on his elbow and a pain shoots through his arm. “Shit!” The floor is wet with diesel. He feels it soaking through the seat of his trousers. It is on his hands. Without thinking he fumbles for the cigarette lighter in his pocket. There just isn’t enough damned light in here. Only as he spins the wheel with his thumb, sparking the flame, does it occur to him that he is in imminent danger of turning himself into a human torch. But by then it is too late. The light is sudden and startling in the dark. He braces himself. But there is no ignition of diesel fumes, no sudden flash of searing flame. Just an image so profoundly shocking it is impossible at first to comprehend.
The man is hanging by his neck from the rafters overhead, frayed orange plastic rope tilting his head at an impossible angle. He is a big man, buck naked, blue-white flesh hanging in folds from his breasts and his buttocks, like a loose fitting suit two sizes too big. Loops of something smooth and shiny hang down between his legs from a gaping smile that splits his belly from side to side. The flame sends the dead man’s shadow dancing around the scarred and graffitied walls like so many ghosts welcoming a new arrival. Beyond him, Ulleam sees Ceit’s face. Pale, dark-eyed, frozen in horror. For a moment he thinks, absurdly, that the pool of diesel around him is agricultural, dyed red by the Excise to identify its tax-free status – before realising it is blood, sticky and thick and already drying brown on his hands.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: A brutal killing takes place on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland: a land of harsh beauty and inhabitants of deep-rooted faith.
Detective Inspector Fin Macleod is sent from Edinburgh to investigate. For Lewis-born Macleod, the case represents a journey both home and into his past.
Something lurks within the close-knit island community. Something sinister.
As Fin investigates, old skeletons begin to surface, and soon he, the hunter, becomes the hunted.
MY THOUGHTS: I am still reeling from reading this book. It is dark. It is atmospheric. It is breath-taking. It is gripping.
There is crime, but this is not simply a crime novel. It is so much more. We learn, as the story switches back and forth between now as Finlay Macleod investigates the murder, and then, growing up on the small island of Lewis, how insular and isolated life on these small islands is. It is bleak, with joy being fleeting, an almost forbidden thing. There is no childhood as such, or at least as I remember it. It is a harsh and unforgiving environment. Its people are also harsh and unforgiving. In some cases, downright cruel. Jealousies, hate, resentment and misconception all simmer just below the surface. Only with someone, they have boiled over.
If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller, or a police procedural, you are not going to get it with The Blackhouse. If you want a deep, dark, atmospheric mystery that will continue to haunt you after you have finished, then this is the book for you.
Steve Worsley, the narrator, has the perfect voice for this book, and I rate his narration 11/10.
THE AUTHOR: Peter May is the multi award-winning author of:
– the award-winning Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland;
– the China Thrillers, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell;
– the Enzo Files, featuring Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, which is set in France. The sixth and final Enzo book is Cast Iron (UK January 2017, Riverrun).
He has also written several standalone books:
– I’ll Keep You Safe (January 2018, Riverrun)
– Entry Island (January 2014, Quercus UK)
– Runaway (January 2015, Quercus UK)
– Coffin Road (January 2016, Riverrun)
He has also had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer.
One of Scotland’s most prolific television dramatists, he garnered more than 1000 credits in 15 years as scriptwriter and script editor on prime-time British television drama. He is the creator of three major television drama series and presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland before quitting television to concentrate on his first love, writing novels.
Born and raised in Scotland he lives in France.
After being turned down by all the major UK publishers, the first of the The Lewis Trilogy – The Blackhouse – was published in France as L’Ile des Chasseurs d’Oiseaux where it was hailed as “a masterpiece” by the French national newspaper L’Humanité. His novels have a large following in France. The trilogy has won several French literature awards, including one of the world’s largest adjudicated readers awards, the Prix Cezam.
The Blackhouse was published in English by the award-winning Quercus (a relatively young publishing house which did not exist when the book was first presented to British publishers). It went on to become an international best seller, and was shortlisted for both Barry Award and Macavity Award when it was published in the USA.
The Blackhouse won the US Barry Award for Best Mystery Novel at Bouchercon in Albany NY, in 2013.
DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Blackhouse by Peter May, narrated by Steve Worsley, published by Isis Publishing Ltd, via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my