Entertainment

Book review: The Blackhouse

The Black House
The Black House

THE BLACKHOUSE

Author: Peter May

Publisher: Quercus (Pan Macmillian Aust)

RRP: $32.99

PETER May’s chilling book had a big reputation even before it was published in English – first published in France, Scottish journalist and writer May’s adopted home, it won the prestigious Prix des Lecteurs (readers prize) and was described as a masterpiece by French national newspaper L’Humanite.

All the accolades are deserved. I can easily say The Blackhouse is the best book I’ve read all year.

On the surface it’s a crime story but The Blackhouse is oh so much more. 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.

The story is set on the Isle of Lewis, a remote and stark place where secrets are hidden within the tight-knit community. When a man is brutally murdered, Detective Fin MacLeod is sent from Edinburgh to investigate whether it is linked to another killing. For Fin, it is a return home and a return to a past he doesn’t want to confront.

May alternates between Fin’s story now, told in the third person, and the story of his childhood, told in the first-person. Gradually the two stories come together in a shocking revelation that’s linked to the controversial, savage and ritualistic guga hunt, undertaken by the island’s men once a year.

May weaves a haunting story with a darkness that seems to mirror the darkness within us all. Although it begins much like any other procedural crime story, complete with autopsy details, it quickly becomes a study of tragedy, resentment and even redemption.

The author has the most tremendous sense of place – the book breathes the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. You feel its bleakness, its desolation and harsh beauty as the author stamps images in your mind and cuts out sharply formed characters who leap off the page. Fin MacLeod, in particular, is a complex man who gets sucked into a mire of jealously and must ultimately face a truth he’s long hidden.

May also makes the most wonderful use of language.

In short, he is a writer in control. With The Blackhouse, he has used that control to deliver a powerful, beautifully paced story that drips with malice.

The journey he takes us on ends too soon. But the good news is that The Blackhouse is to be the first book in a trilogy featuring Fin MacLeod.

>> More entertainment news


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

$4 million announced for Ballina airport expansion

North Coast Nationals MLC Ben Franklin and Minister for Regional Development John Barilaro announced the funding at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport this morning.

Airport among 10 projects to receive vital infrastructure upgrades

New Ballina chamber board looks to the future

The full Ballina Chamber of Commerce board at the Ballina Coast & Hinterland Northern Star Business Excellence Awards in 2015.

A new board have been elected for the Ballina Chamber of Commerce

Bring home the bacon at Northern Rivers festival

PIGS WILL FLY: A giant pig was joined by Alstonville Lions Club’s Les Wiles and Summerland Credit Union’s Belindar Cordery and others to promote this Sunday’s Alstonville Family Festival.

Get piggy at the Alstonville Family Festival

Latest deals and offers

GAME FOR ZANE: Under-18s to honour fallen clubmate

“IT IS one of the most important days for our club. Zane died on the field doing what he loved for the club he loved."

$4 million announced for Ballina airport expansion

North Coast Nationals MLC Ben Franklin and Minister for Regional Development John Barilaro announced the funding at Ballina Byron Gateway Airport this morning.

Airport among 10 projects to receive vital infrastructure upgrades

New Ballina chamber board looks to the future

The full Ballina Chamber of Commerce board at the Ballina Coast & Hinterland Northern Star Business Excellence Awards in 2015.

A new board have been elected for the Ballina Chamber of Commerce

Bring home the bacon at Northern Rivers festival

PIGS WILL FLY: A giant pig was joined by Alstonville Lions Club’s Les Wiles and Summerland Credit Union’s Belindar Cordery and others to promote this Sunday’s Alstonville Family Festival.

Get piggy at the Alstonville Family Festival

Welcome to Northern Rivers’ first golf course of its kind

IT’S OPEN: The Ballina Disc Golf Course at Bicentennial Gardens was officially opened last week by US-born disc golf player Jesse Amos, who pushed for the course, and Ballina Shire councillor Jeff Johnson.

Reports of at least one hole-in-one already

Who wants to be an engineer?

Sparks flly as the laser cutter slices through a 3/4 in sheet of steel at Adnought Sheet metal Fabrications. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin

Calling young people who have thought about an engineering career

The best retro movies of the week? May 27 - June 3

Gregory Peck Photo Contributed

This week TV fan get to see Tom Cruise in a 1980s classics

Barnaby Joyce talks Johnny Depp's dogs in Tweed

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce talks about Johnny Depp's dogs Pistol and Boo...

Road rage caught on Dashcam

Attack with a baseball bat caught on Dashcam

Video of a violent road rage incident in Orange last December.

Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce tour Rockhampton sweet potato farm

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce visit a...

Perfect time to invest in Northern Rivers property

The Northern Rivers rental market is tighter than Sydney making it the perfect time for investors to get better returns out of property than superannuation or banks deposits.

Low interest rates and tight rental market are prime time to invest