When a grisly murder occurs on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland's Outer Hebrides that bears the hallmarks of the work of a similar killer on the Scottish mainland, Edinburgh detective and native islander Fin Macleod is dispatched to investigate, embarking at the same time on a voyage into his own troubled past.At the beginning of the story, the reader learns two things about Fin Macleod. He has been taking some time away from his job as a police detective in Edinburgh because his son died a few weeks earlier and his relationship with his wife is not very good. His boss insists that he return to work and sends him off to the Isle of Lewis to investigate a murder there, since Fin was an investigating officer on the similar case that occurred in Edinburgh.
Fin is not exactly welcomed when he arrives in the village where he grew up. The DCI in charge, Tom Smith, doesn't want his help or his expertise. His old friends and acquaintances are wary, at best, since he hasn't been back to the island in 20 years.
The story consists primarily of flashbacks to Fin Macleod's childhood intermingled with Fin's experiences on the island as he renews old relationships. I usually like a mystery that is as much about the characters in the book as about the detection of the crime, but in this case it seemed like there was too much of the protagonist's backstory and not enough about the crime. That part of the book seems like an afterthought, although both stories come together at the end.
This was Peter May's goal when writing the book. From an interview at Visit Scotland, May says:
When someone becomes known as a crime writer, publishers and booksellers expect all future books to be in the same genre. The Blackhouse had a crime in it, but as far as I was concerned the crime was nothing more than a vehicle to tell the personal story of Fin Macleod, his life and his upbringing on the island.The most effective part of this book is the setting and the atmosphere. It is the protagonist's memories of his childhood that provide us with a picture of life on the Isle of Lewis 20-30 years earlier. The story is powerful and well told.
May did not intend for this book to turn into a series, and had no desire to be tied to a lot of books about one character, but he was persuaded by his French publishers to write two more books featuring Fin. Even though I was not entirely satisfied with this book, I will read the next book in the series. I am very interested in how May continues it.
I am also very excited that the Enzo Files, an earlier series by Peter May, has been reissued in trade paperback editions. I have been looking for the first book in that series for years.
This series is hugely popular and if you haven't already read it, you should probably ignore my reservations and give it a try. See these other posts on The Blackhouse. Each of them have more information on the author, his other books, or the setting:
Publisher: SilverOak, 2012 (orig. publ. 2009 in France)
Length: 357 pages
Series: Fin Macleod, #1
Setting: Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Source: I purchased my copy.