The Blackhouse opens with the discovery of a mutilated body in the remote settlement of Ness, on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Elements of the killingThe Blackhouse opens with the discovery of a mutilated body in the remote settlement of Ness, on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Elements of the killing appear similar to a recent case in Edinburgh investigated by Detective Inspector Fin Macleod, who is drafted in to advise on the case. Fin has ties to the affected community, growing up on the island then leaving it behind at seventeen.
I'd read the second installment of the trilogy, The Lewis Man (my review), before this one, so knew what to expect from May's writing. His vivid description of the starkly beautiful landscape, the distinctive influences of language and religion on the close-knit community, and the extraordinary tradition of the guga (juvenile gannet) hunt, raise this far above standard police procedural novels. The chapter recounting Fin's teenage experience as part of the hunting crew on An Sgeir (a fictional rendering of Sula Sgeir) is particularly enthralling, detailing the customs of a way of life now alien to most of us*, and culminating in tragedy.
The echoes of the past haunt the present, with chapters alternating between the ongoing investigation and Fin's childhood, building towards a charged confrontation and a thrilling climax, keeping the reader gripped to the end.
*I'd recommend that anyone interested in finding out more about the guga hunt look out The Guga Hunters by Donald S. Murray. May references Sula: Seabird Hunters of Lewis by John Beatty, although copies of this may be harder to come by....more
I was given this book by a friend as its setting of Aberdeen is one very familiar to me. However, other than the odd mention of traffic on MounthoolyI was given this book by a friend as its setting of Aberdeen is one very familiar to me. However, other than the odd mention of traffic on Mounthooly roundabout, the setting doesn't have the real feel of Rankin's Edinburgh, Dexter's Oxford or Mankell's Ystad. It could be anywhere.
MacBride's book doesn't shy away from disturbing scenarios and gory images as a cannibal serial killer butchers his victims and introduces their flesh into the local food supply. However, the graphic nature of the read isn't what made this book feel less than satisfying. The plot is thin and characters are under-developed. That said, it is a book that you can race through in a wet weekend, although it might put you off your sausages.
Lewis Man is the second in Peter May's Lewis Trilogy series featuring Fin McLeod. This time Fin has left Edinburgh, his job as a police detective, andLewis Man is the second in Peter May's Lewis Trilogy series featuring Fin McLeod. This time Fin has left Edinburgh, his job as a police detective, and his crumbling marriage following the death of his young son, and returned home to the island of his birth first revisited in The Blackhouse. However, it also works well as a stand-alone story.
The body of a young man is found in a peat bog during the annual cutting, stabbed several times and throat slashed, but an Elvis tattoo on the corpse makes it an investigation for police rather than archaeologists. Initial investigations link the corpse to an elderly local man, Tormod McDonald, suffering advanced dementia, for whom the identification of the body is as much of a mystery as to others.
May conveys the frustration and confusion Tormod experiences with his condition with great sensitivity, contrasting the clarity of his recollections of the far past to cloudy recent memory to create an authentic voice, soft and slow with the lilt of Gaelic.
After moving to Shetland with her husband, Dr. Tora Hamilton discovers a corpse buried in the peaty soil of the field behind their new home. The bodyAfter moving to Shetland with her husband, Dr. Tora Hamilton discovers a corpse buried in the peaty soil of the field behind their new home. The body of a young woman, her heart cut out and runes carved into the flesh of her back.
Runes? Bolton introduces the idea to her characters as if no one possibly could have heard of runes before. Or Shetland, as information about the islands feels as if it's been cribbed from Wikipedia, and embellished with descriptions from a Lonely Planet.
Sacrifice isn't a straight-forward police-procedural, drawing on Nordic-influenced folklore and ideas of the supernatural. Together with the dystopic occurrences on the (fictional) island of Tronal, this creates the seeds of an unsettling and atmospheric mystery thriller.
Unfortunately the execution of the novel is quite amateur, so although Sacrifice is a quick and easy read, it's ultimately quite unsatisfying. ...more
In the not too distant past, seabirds and their eggs were a staple food for many small coastal communities clinging to the Atlantic fringes of Europe.In the not too distant past, seabirds and their eggs were a staple food for many small coastal communities clinging to the Atlantic fringes of Europe. Ness (Nis), near the northernmost tip of the Isle of Lewis, is the only community in the British Isles that retains that tradition, with men from the village undertaking an arduous expedition each Autumn to the rocky sea-stack of Sula Sgeir, 40 miles offshore. Spending two weeks or so on the rock, they capture and kill gannet chicks, known as guga, under a special licence granted by the European Union.
This book is a fascinating insight into a history that would have been shared by many other coastal communities, and how keeping the tradition has created a strong bond in Ness, rooted deeply in the language and culture of the area. Murray writes as a Nessman, with deep fondness for his heritage and the history of his community, and as a poet and journalist, giving insightful observations with a lyrical flair and wry humour. ...more