Thursday, December 22, 2016

Outer Hebrides Murder Mystery a Broody, Atmospheric Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With its dark, broody weather and desolate, treeless landscape, the Isle of Lewis makes a fitting backdrop for murder.  And this one's as grisly as they come.  Oddly, the crime bears remarkable similarities to a recent killing in Edinburgh.  Because he speaks Gaelic, Edinburgh detective Fin McLeod is sent to the Outer Hebrides to investigate.  Reared on Lewis, the policeman hasn't been back in almost two decades.  He's less than thrilled to be returning now, especially on such an unpleasant errand.

Fin has no desire to revisit his dark past, but he has little choice as he traverses the land he knew so well as a boy.  Questioning old friends and neighbors doesn't help matters.  The more he investigates the murder, the deeper he's drawn into not just the past but also the secretive presents of the tight-lipped islanders.  It doesn't help that Marsaili, the woman Fin has always loved, still lives on the island—with her husband.  Being on Lewis is seriously messing with his head.  Can Fin sniff out a killer when he can't even sort himself?  With a murderer on the loose, will the detective ever leave Lewis?  Or will his homecoming end with his body buried in the cold, hard ground he vowed never to step on again?  

Although The Blackhouse—the first book in Peter May's Lewis trilogy—begins with a murder, the novel really isn't about the crime.  It's about the journey of a man haunted by his past.  Fin is a complex character; his flaws humanize him in a way that makes it impossible not to empathize with his plight.  As he examines the Outer Hebrides, with its unique scenery, culture, and people, the book's setting comes to life, becoming an intriguing character in its own right.  As for the plot of The Blackhouse, it's tense, compelling, and twisty.  On the whole, the novel is dark, depressing, and sad.  And yet, I found myself totally engrossed by it, so much so that I put the next two books in the series on reserve at the library before I even finished The Blackhouse.  I do like a moody mystery set in a unique locale.  Since I've now finished the series, I can say that all three volumes definitely qualify.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of the other books in the trilogy [The Lewis Man; and The Chessmen] as well as several of May's stand alone novels [Entry Island; Coffin Road; Runaway; etc.].  

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, blood/gore, sexual content, and depictions of underage drinking and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

2 comments:

  1. I would read this book for the setting alone! :)

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  2. I'm not entirely sure about this one. I love the basic concept and I love the setting but I like my mysteries to be more about the murder than the detective. Still this series is on my TBR so I think it's worth the risk! Thanks for the heads up and great review!

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