REVIEW: The Blackhouse by Peter May (Lewis Trilogy #1)

Series: Lewis Trilogy (Fin Macleod)

Book Number: 1

Read this book for: in-depth, richly detailed character backstory, character-driven mystery, location as character

Quick Review: A deeply detailed read that focuses more on character than on the actual mystery, but with characters so compelling that you want to read more.

***

Fin Macleod is sent back to his home on the Isle of Lewis that he left long ago to investigate a murder that bears similarities to a case he was working on in Edinburgh. It ends up as a voyage away from his recent personal troubles, but the investigation of the murder in the Outer Hebrides brings him closer to the events of his past that nearly destroyed his life.

THE BLACKHOUSE is the first novel of Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy featuring Fin Macleod. This series focuses on the Outer Hebrides, and while the mystery in this novel is not necessarily complex, the intertwining of Fin’s past with the current case and the way that the snippets of backstory are meted out make for a compelling read.

In fact, the characters are the most compelling part of this novel. It’s Fin’s past that largely drives the narrative of THE BLACKHOUSE, and each character seems to be crafted with great care and detail. While some of the characters are pretty standard archetypes, the way that they interact is fairly interesting; their shared history and the way that it combines with the history of the islands keeps you turning pages to find out more about their backgrounds.

The Outer Hebrides feature so strongly in this novel that they almost become a character in their own right. The descriptions of the island, the traditions and places give a haunting sense of gloom and foreboding to the entire novel. There’s a heavy, grey overcast wash that lends additional weight and infuses the characters’ actions and with a stronger sense of meaning and importance than they might otherwise have.

That weight and the rich characters are really what drive this novel. The actual mystery is not particularly complicated; in fact, it’s barely central to the story. Although some of the characters are familiar archetypes and some of the tragic backstory pieces veer dangerously close to cliché, the way the backstory is constructed, and the way that it is fed out, one bit at a time, keeps you desperate to find out what the whole picture is. The fact that Fin doesn’t even know the whole story about his own past makes it even more difficult to put down.

THE BLACKHOUSE is a compelling, intriguing read that definitely deserves a look, particularly if you are in the mood for a darkly atmospheric read that will keep you invested in the characters and turning pages right until the end.

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