Detective Fin McLeod returns to his childhood home, the Isle of Lewis, for the first time in 17 years to investigate a brutal murder. Rediscovering the island and figures from his past, Fin learns that old memories can never truly stay hidden. As the past and present play out, you forget this is ostensibly a crime novel and become slowly absorbed in Fin’s history, the islanders’ lives and their traditions; including the annual guga hunt, a rite of passage for Lewis men.
It is a community foreign to most city dwellers, still now dominated by God and the weather’s foibles, only bending reluctantly towards modernity. The Isle of Lewis is the heart of the novel, its moods and landscapes casting colour or shade over the story, and the island setting is both literal and symbolic; a hermetic world from which the youngsters long to escape. Decades later, many are still trapped by tragedy or circumstance. The Blackhouse, the first of a planned Lewis Trilogy, 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. [Alice Sinclair]
Out now. Published by Quercus. Cover price £12.99