Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Blackhouse by Peter May - An Immersion in Character and Culture

 Once in a while you pick up a book and find it far exceeds expectations. I was intrigued reading the jacket flap of Peter May's The Blackhouse. It summarized the story of a Scotland detective called back to his childhood home in The Hebrides to investigate a murder similar to a case he's recently dealt with in Edinburgh. It sounded like an engaging procedural.

I didn't get from that how rich in character and setting the tale would be.

The Blackhouse scrutinizes the life of Fin Macleod, both in the present as he proceeds through his investigation, and in the past, through first-person remembrance.

Fin has known tragedy. He's almost plagued by tragedy. He lost his parents at a young age. He's just lost a son and seen his marriage unravel in the aftermath. He's also been party to a good deal of misery either dealt out by harsh circumstances of island life or from nature itself.

The case he's called on to investigate opens old wounds and revisits jagged relationships, many swirling around the victim, Angel Macritchie, a bully as a boy and as a man.

Macleod's past is inextricably linked to the murder. Those detailed relationships and past regrets channel him toward answers, shocks and heightened regrets.

Many are linked to the island's annual guga hunt, an almost ritualistic culling of gannets on a rock island. May, who lived in the Hebrides while film a television series there, offers a fascinating look into life and culture and the role of the hunt to island life.

The components converge in a thrilling and tortured climax in which Fin confronts present, past, himself, and, of course, the killer.

It's a well plotted mystery, a study of a man and a voyage to a unique and intriguing place. It reminds me a bit in its combinations of Jane Campion's New Zealand in Top of the Lake.

It's well worth the time to turn the pages. Has Fin been party to almost too much tragedy and has he seen too much first hand? Perhaps one red herring's a bit of a stretch, but it generally fits, and the whole is a solid, intricate work.

Happily, though it took the book a while to find a home, it's the first in a trilogy, that I hope to continue reading soon.

Peter May discusses the road to publication for The Blackhouse:


emmanuel said...

great article and video, that is wonderful. Pls hw do i get the complete text?

Charles Gramlich said...

Always great to find a piece like that, something to exceed your speculations.

Sidney said...

The image of the book should take you to the Amazon link for various editions, Emmanuel.

Sidney said...

Yeah, it's fun to discover unexpectedly.

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