The Lewis Trilogy

The Blackhouse


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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.

The Lewis Man

LewisMan copy

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An unidentified corpse is recovered from a Lewis peat bog; the only clue to its identity being a DNA sibling match to a local farmer.

But this islander, Tormod Macdonald – now an elderly man suffering from dementia – has always claimed to be an only child.

When Tormod’s family approach Fin Macleod for help, Fin feels duty-bound to solve the mystery.

The Lewis Man is the follow-up to The Blackhouse,
which was an international bestseller in both hardback and paperback.
It is the second novel in the Lewis trilogy.

A perfectly preserved body is recovered from a peat bog on the Isle of Lewis.

The male Caucasian corpse – marked by several horrific stab wounds – is initially believed by its finders to be over two-thousand years old. Until they spot the Elvis tattoo on his right arm. The body, it transpires, is not evidence of an ancient ritual killing, but of a murder committed during the latter half of the twentieth century.

Meanwhile, Fin Macleod has returned to the island of his birth. Having left his wife, his life in Edinburgh and his career in the police force, the former Detective Inspector is intent on repairing past relationships and restoring his parents’ derelict croft.

But when DNA tests flag a familial match between the bog body and the father of Fin’s childhood sweetheart, Marsaili Macdonald, Fin finds his homecoming more turbulent than expected. Tormod Macdonald, now an elderly man in the grip of dementia, had always claimed to be an only child without close family.

A lie, Fin will soon discover, Tormod has had very good reason to hide behind.

The Chessmen


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Fin Macleod, now head of security on a privately owned Lewis estate, is charged with investigating a spate of illegal game-hunting taking place on the island.


This mission reunites him with Whistler Macaskill – a local poacher, Fin’s teenage intimate, and possessor of a long-buried secret.


But when this reunion takes a violent, sinister turn and Fin puts together the fractured pieces of the past, he realizes that revealing the truth could destroy the future.

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42 Responses to The Lewis Trilogy

  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.

  4. John says:

    I’ve recently read the three books in the Lewis trilogy in a period of one week and very much enjoyed them. However, one point of detail which confused me was the police ranks of Fin Macleod and George Gunn. I couldn’t understand why George Gunn showed such deference to Fin Macleod and insisted on calling him “Sir” or “Mr Macleod”.

    In chapter 12 of “The Blackhouse”, Fin Macleod introduces himself and George Gunn to James Minto as “Detective Sergeant Finlay Macleod” and “Detective Constable George Gunn”. This surprised me as until that time I’d assumed that Fin was at least a Detective Inspector. I’ve never read a crime novel or seen a TV programme where a constable would call a sergeant “Sir”. The abbreviation “Sarge” is, I believe, the usual term a constable would use to address a sergeant.

    However, in chapters 4 and 5 of “The Lewis Man”, George Gunn is, on several occasions, referred to as “Detective Sergeant” by Professor Mulgrew. Also in “The Lewis Man”, in chapter 19, the headmistress of the school addresses Gunn as “Detective Sergeant” and Fin introduces Gunn to the man in the neighbouring croft to the Macdonalds’ croft as “Detective Sergeant George Gunn”

    In Chapter 6 of “The Chessmen”, the following paragraph appears: – “ ‘Because I’m afraid I might do him more harm than good, Mr Macleod.’ Fin had long since given up trying to get Gunn to call him by his first name. While still in the force Fin had been a Detective Inspector, superior in rank, and George was nothing if not a stickler for protocol. Even though Fin had long since quit the police. “ Chapter 23 contains a reference to “Fin had attained the rank of detective inspector himself before leaving the force”. There’s also references to Gunn as a Detective Sergeant and Macleod as a former Detective Inspector in chapter 29.

    Based on the evidence in the latter two books I’m assuming that the reference in “The Blackhouse” to Macleod being a Detective Sergeant and Gunn being a Detective Constable is an error.

  5. Joy Dewhirst says:

    Why does the map show Uig is on the Isle of Skye

    • There are two Uigs, Joy. There is an Uig on the north-west tip of the Isle of Skye, from where the ferry leaves for Harris. And there is an Uig on the south-west corner of the Isle of Lewis.

      • Joy Dewhirst says:

        O.K. but all the action is in the S.W. one on Lewis so why have the one on Skye on the map? I guess I am a bit OC about details. Anyway, loved the trilogy. It made we want to go somewhere warm and sunny!

  6. annemarie grant says:

    I have finished reading “I’ll keep you safe” and like the Lewis Trilogy which I previously commented on, I really enjoyed reading this one the same as the others, the characters are so real and of course having been to Lewis quite a few times now recognise the places mentioned so I get a real feeling for the story. Also I had a feeling there was going to be a twist in the storyline,without giving anything away for those who haven’t read yet.
    I also have just finished “Blowback” with Enzo, had few tears in my eyes at the end, so good.

  7. LEPRAT says:

    Je suis un Français de plus de 50 ans qui aime lire depuis toujours. Depuis 2 ou 3 ans je me suis mis à lire en anglais, une sorte de défit. Le plus difficile étant de trouver des ouvrages dans la langue de Shakespeare lorsque l’on habite en campagne. Bref, grâce à internet j’ai trouvé de quoi assouvir ma passion outre Manche chez “Snazal” pour ceux et celles qui seraient intéressés. C’est donc suite à une erreur de livraison (nul n’est infaillible) que j’ai découvert “the trilogy of Lewis”. Le vocabulaire utilisé n’est pas toujours aisé, mais je ne regrette pas. C’est tout simplement une pure merveille tant au niveau descriptif qu’au niveau des sujets abordés avec pudeurs et sans jugements. A titre personnel et un peu tardivement je vous décerne le prix Goncourt.

  8. Shona says:

    I am trying to buy the chessmen in large print for my 84yr old mum. Does anyone know if this was published in large print as I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Your advice would e appreciated.

    • I’m sorry, Shona. I can’t find a large print version of The Chessmen, though there seem to be large print editions of the other two books in the trilogy. I will ask my publisher.

    • Shona, I’m sorry, the large print rights to The Chessmen have not been sold, so no such edition exists. You could try an audiobook for your mum. Peter Forbes reads them brilliantly.

      • Sanjit Narwekar says:

        My mum had solved this problem by reading on a tablet so that she could increase the font to any size she was comfortable with. Hope this helps.

  9. shonasmall says:

    Ok thank you that would be helpful. It is such a shame that you can’t easily get all three in large print. Looking forward to an update.

  10. Richard Lewis says:

    Hi Peter,
    Just finished your Lewis Trilogy, which was prompted after my first trip to Lewis and Harris in autumn 2018. I only spent three days in Stornoway, with day trips out and about, but was greatly affected by Lews Castle and the Iolaire exhibit – that exhibit prompted me to purchase The Darkest Dawn as well.
    Without containing spoilers, I just wanted to say that the way you wrapped the series was ultimately satisfying and felt real
    Wishing you continued success in the future,

  11. Richard Peck says:

    Hi Peter,

    I’ve just finished the trilogy and loved every one of them. It was a really good finish to the series, but it left me a little sad (in a good way!) that my time with Fin etc had come to an end. Do you have any plans to revisit the main characters in any future books? Another trilogy would be great!


  12. richardingham2015 says:

    Started reading The Chess Men and really enjoyed the first two books of the trilogy just what you need during the lockdown.
    I wonder if it will end with Fin and Marsallie finally getting it together.

  13. Samuel Roberts says:

    Anymore Fin Macleod books on the way?

  14. Elouise Hattingh says:

    Absolutely mesmerizing, addictive and powerful. Emotionally loaded and deeply hypnotic. Finished the trilogy in record time and craving more. Mr May, please don’t let it stop at 3…

  15. Albert Levi says:

    I have read The Lewis Man and currently reading The Chessmen I am finding it difficult to keep up with the back wards and forwards how old is Fin in the book I make it 37

  16. Donna Parry says:

    I have just finished reading these books and I loved them. I bought them because u was looking for something different to read and they were set in one of my favourite places. I really felt like I knew the characters and loved the storylines. After reading some of the comments here I am a little sad to see there will be no more books to the series.

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  18. sirdavidgray says:

    Loved this trilogy. The lewis man is the best book I’ve ever read.

  19. Colin Mansfield says:

    Hi Peter, great trilogy I read all 3 books in 2 weeks, savoury the characters & settings, a good reminder of my 32 years work-based in Inverness. I’ve been to Lewis a couple of times, Dun Carloway, Callanish & other places. I’ve now finished Coffin Road where Fin & Marshaili get a short mention for a dinner date at the Gunn’s, so I reckon they “bonded” back together … a nice touch. Brings back a lot of Highland experiences, and its different culture.

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  21. Karen Tholstrup says:

    Dear Peter

    After reading (or, actually listening to) the first book in the Lewis trilogy, I straight went onto the second book.
    I’m fascinated how emphatic you describe Tormod in his dementia – it makes so much sense thinking of my husband’s father. He must have been developing the dementia through the last 10 – 15 years, but we never understood before resent, because it ‘just’ was a a distillate of his grumpy patriarch, who’s 3 sons still afraid of him.
    By reading your description of Tormod and his thoughts gives me a new angle trying to understand – and cope – with my father-in-law’s attitude, anger and behaviour. I will recommend the book to the rest of the family in order to give them more ballast to Copenhagen instead of jumping right into the hole with argumentation.

    Of course, we don’t really know how it is to live in the dementia. We can see that it brings frustration to the person with dementia, and you give me a persuasive understanding of how it is.
    Will you tell me how you got this insight?

    All the best

    Aarhus, Denmark

    • Hi Karen, I’m delighted that you are enjoying The Lewis Trilogy. “The Lewis Man” itself was one of the most difficult and emotional books I have written – primarily because of the Tormod character, and writing about dementia. My own father suffered from dementia. There is a scene in the book where Marsaili turns up at her parents’ home only to find her father sitting with his coat and hat on, and a packed suitcase on the floor beside him. This is exactly what happened to me. My father was dressed and ready to go and my mother said, “Take him away. I can’t deal with him any more.” From that moment he became my responsibility, until his death a few years later. I learned a great deal about my father during those years, and in particular how he was affected by his dementia, which became increasingly worse. I felt that I gained an insight into how his mind was working, and how his dementia made him interpret the world. I understood that he could remember most things from the past in great detail (or, at least, those things he chose to remember), and could recall nothing from five minutes ago. It was strange that he came not to recognise my sister, of whom he had been very fond as a child, yet he always knew who I was. Not a man to express his emotions, he reduced me almost to tears one day by saying to me, “I love you son, I really love you.” Inevitably, I had to write about the experience, and “The Lewis Man” was the result. Many of the incidents I describe in the book are lifted from real life. I wish you courage to deal with the dementia in your own family.

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