Book review: The Blackhouse

The Black House
The Black House


Author: Peter May

Publisher: Quercus (Pan Macmillian Aust)

RRP: $32.99

PETER May’s chilling book had a big reputation even before it was published in English – first published in France, Scottish journalist and writer May’s adopted home, it won the prestigious Prix des Lecteurs (readers prize) and was described as a masterpiece by French national newspaper L’Humanite.

All the accolades are deserved. I can easily say The Blackhouse is the best book I’ve read all year.

On the surface it’s a crime story but The Blackhouse is oh so much more. It’s an intense, psychological drama that’s all about atmosphere and character, a book that clings to you long after you’ve put it down.

The story is set on the Isle of Lewis, a remote and stark place where secrets are hidden within the tight-knit community. When a man is brutally murdered, Detective Fin MacLeod is sent from Edinburgh to investigate whether it is linked to another killing. For Fin, it is a return home and a return to a past he doesn’t want to confront.

May alternates between Fin’s story now, told in the third person, and the story of his childhood, told in the first-person. Gradually the two stories come together in a shocking revelation that’s linked to the controversial, savage and ritualistic guga hunt, undertaken by the island’s men once a year.

May weaves a haunting story with a darkness that seems to mirror the darkness within us all. Although it begins much like any other procedural crime story, complete with autopsy details, it quickly becomes a study of tragedy, resentment and even redemption.

The author has the most tremendous sense of place – the book breathes the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. You feel its bleakness, its desolation and harsh beauty as the author stamps images in your mind and cuts out sharply formed characters who leap off the page. Fin MacLeod, in particular, is a complex man who gets sucked into a mire of jealously and must ultimately face a truth he’s long hidden.

May also makes the most wonderful use of language.

In short, he is a writer in control. With The Blackhouse, he has used that control to deliver a powerful, beautifully paced story that drips with malice.

The journey he takes us on ends too soon. But the good news is that The Blackhouse is to be the first book in a trilogy featuring Fin MacLeod.

>> More entertainment news

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Next generation of yogis learn in the Lockyer

TUNING IN: Sarah Weber runs her kids yoga class once a week, each term from her Cura Life Studio in Gatton.

Yoga teacher Sarah Weber shares the benefits of starting yoga early.

All's Wells for Madi after third national silver medal

RISING STAR: Lockyer District Athletic Club's Madison Wells celebrates her latest silver medal success with mum Sharyn and dad Lee in Melbourne.

Madison Wells won silver at the Australian Multi-events titles.

Bid on hot cross buns to help raise funds

GOING HOT: The Old Fernvale Bakery aim to raise $40,000 for the Lady Cilento Childrens Hospital by donating $1 from every pack of hot cross buns sold. Pictured here are Lyn and Bill Rose with the latest hot cross bun creation, cranberry, pistachio and white chocolate.

Help the Old Fernvale bakery get over the line.

Local Partners