The Blackhouse

The Isle of Lewis is the most remote, harshly beautiful place in Scotland, where the difficulty of existence seems outweighed only by people’s fear of God.
But older, pagan values lurk beneath the veneer of faith, the primal yearning for blood and revenge.

When a brutal murder on the island bears the hallmarks of a similar slaying in Edinburgh, police detective Fin Macleod is dispatched north to investigate.
But since he himself was raised on Lewis, the investigation also represents a journey home and into his past.

Each year the island’s men perform the hunting of the gugas, a savage custom no longer necessary for survival, but which they cling to even more fiercely in the face of the demands of modern morality.

For Fin the hunt recalls a horrific tragedy, which after all this time may have begun to demand another sacrifice.

The Blackhouse is a crime novel of rare power and vision.

A page-turning murder mystery that explores the darkness in our souls, and just how difficult it is to escape the past.

Reviews of The Blackhouse

“Just when we think we’ve seen it all, along comes Peter May’s Blackhouse to remind us that
terms like unique and cutting edge still belong in the crime novel lexicon.
In addition to being a great story, this book is probably like nothing you have read before.”
The Big Thrill
(read the full article)

“A thriller with an intensity that never slackens, chilling and igneous at the same time,
like the great country that serves as its setting.  A masterpiece indeed.”
L’Humanité  (French daily newspaper)
(read a translation of the full article)

“His [the hero’s] gradual enlightenment is conveyed with subtle, tragic conviction
…. melancholy … brilliant”
The Literary Review

“[May’s] finest work… an impeccably written murder thriller”
Daily Express

“A chilling setting for a gripping novel… impressive writing”
The Times (London)
(read the full review)

“Award-winning Glasgow-born author Peter May is no stranger to the Isle of Lewis,
and it shows in every thrilling chapter of this bleak, wild, atmospheric novel.
(…)
400 pages of pitch-perfect dialogue and creepy, spine-tingling storytelling.”
The Scotsman
(read the full review)

“While The Blackhouse contains many feature-filled pages, life-changing events and
revelations of major consequence, they are beautifully played here,
orchestrated by a writer in full command of his material, perfectly judged and paced,
and so the whole story is utterly compelling and it carries the reader to the very last word.
This book shows how the dramatic should be done.”
Cornflower Books
(read the full review)

“This is a novel of subtlety and horror.
Award-winning author Peter May has deftly constructed a story that gets into
the heart of human darkness while presenting an intriguing thriller you won’t be able to put down.”
CityAM
(read the full review)

“Peter May handles the psychological depths of the story with a deft touch and great insight.”
(…)
“This is a magnificent and gripping story of murder and long held resentment that
grabs the attention from the very first word.”
(…)
“This is much, much more than a murder mystery,
revealing the depths to which human beings are driven by passion and jealousy.
Fin is a complex and attractive character plunged into an emotional whirlpool”
Crime Squad
(read the full review)

“a story which, remarkably in 21st century Britain, could not have worked anywhere else…
Atmosphere and character are the main things here…
Thanks to May, Lewis is firmly on Scotland’s crime map”
Shots
(read the full review)

“What a truly fantastic book this is! …a truly delightful feast for the soul…
The nature of the story gets into your mind and won’t leave you alone.
It haunts you… beautifully rich vocabulary… excellent.”
Eurocrime
(read the full article)

“The first of three books to be set on Lewis, The Blackhouse is a good example of
Peter May’s talent for sharing a place and unravelling a story that keeps you guessing as the pages fly by.
Highland News
(read the full article)

“…brilliant!  One of the best books (crime et al.) I’ve read in a very long time.”
Alanna Knight
(The Times ‘100 Masters of Crime’)

“The Blackhouse… poses as a crime novel but, like the best of its genre, is much more.
May’s rich characters and his attention to detail breathe life into the story, which haunts you past the final page.”
The Skinny magazine
(read the full review)

“an outstanding thriller that is as dark and chilling as the stormy Scottish seas on a winter’s night”
The Daily Record
(read the full review)

“May handles the plot, pace and characterization with a freshness and fluidity that make it a delight to read”
The Big Issue

“Easily May’s best work to date… his greatest success thus far as a novelist.
…a highly pleasurable mix of mystery and literary fiction”
The LitWitch
(read the full review)

“genuinely exciting and unexpected climax…
an outstanding and unusual piece of crime fiction told by someone with a deep understanding of the setting he has placed it in”
Undiscovered Scotland Magazine
(read the full review)

“a dark, evocative tale (…) beautifully-observed ”
The Scots Magazine (Book of the Month June 2011)
(read the full review)

“A beautifully written, haunting and powerful examination of the darkness of men’s souls
and how hard it can be to bury the past, The Blackhouse is also an outstanding page-turning murder mystery”
The Independent (Ireland)
(read the full review)

“Award-winning Glasgow-born author Peter May is
no stranger to the Isle of Lewis, and
it shows in every thrilling chapter of this bleak, wild, atmospheric novel.”
The Sunday Journal (Ireland)
(read the full review)

“All the accolades are deserved.
(…)
the best book I’ve read all year
(…)
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.
(…)
a study of tragedy, resentment and even redemption
(…)
a powerful, beautifully paced story that drips with malice.”
The Chronicle (Australia)
(read the full review)

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7 Responses to The Blackhouse

  1. I read a lot of fiction. But seldom does a book grab and hold me like The Blackhouse. Once the story got going, I literally couldn’t put it down. On one memorable night I read straight through until midnight. Next day, I shut myself in the guest room and finished it. Then I did a couple of things I always do when a book really appeals to me: I started researching it on the Internet. And then I wrote a blog post about it.

    The murder mystery aspect of the plot was secondary to me. Far more appealing were the bleak Outer Hebrides setting and great local color. I’ve always been interested in Scottish writers and settings — the result of my years in pipe bands and many memorable Scots I met as part of that effort. The sense of place was so strong, reminding me of Tawni O’Dell’s treatment of rural western Pennsylvania in her novel Back Roads.

    Now maybe I’m just a sentimentalist, but most of all I loved the bittersweet subplot involving Fin MacLeod and his old “friend” Marsaili MacDonald. Anyone who has experienced regret, missed opportunities and the pull of past relationships will enjoy that aspect of it. In particular, the account of their first year at university rang true, reminding me so much of my own experiences. I was very happy to learn that The Lewis Man features Fin. And I hope it brings back Marsaili as well. The almost unbearable romantic tension she brought to The Blackhouse meant a lot to me.

    • I very much appreciate your comments, Sonny. I hope you will enjoy the other two books in the trilogy as much. If you haven’t already, you should look at the first post on my blog, entitled “The Girl from the Farm:. There you will find the genesis of Marsaili.

      • I read that blog post – fascinating. I’ve ordered the other two books in the trilogy from Amazon UK. Hope to see you tour the U.S. one of these days. There are stil plenty of readers here. Sad as it is that bookstores are closing, Kindle, Nook and the like have given us instant access to a huge selection. I’m spending more on books that I would have without my Kindle. Keep up the good work.

  2. Hilary Cook says:

    After travelling to Lewis for a weeks holiday, I bought The Black House on the ferry when I was homeward bound. I’m now completely hooked. Thankyou.

  3. Veronica says:

    Hello, Peter
    I can’t help writing this, because I really want to thank you for this great book , “The Blackhouse”. I’ve just finished reading it and I’m so full of emotions that I need to share my excitement.
    It is the most amazing detective story I know, so absorbing, sincere and vivid that seems to be real. Your characters, their relationships, their feelings, the tangle of their lives, everything feels veracious and deeply experienced by you.
    And the background is astonishing, though the word “background” is not precise, for it’s one of it’s most remarkable sides. I’m in love with Scotland and if there is no chance of going there, I’ll still have this experience of visiting the Isle of Lewis as if I´ve seen it with my own eyes.
    I’m Russian and reading your books in original is quite a challenge but it is worth it, don’t want to lose a word from the story. I’m so looking forward to read the rest of the trilogy.
    Thank you so much for the absolutely stunning book and the huge amount of research you must have done for it.

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