The Black House

the black house

The Black House by Peter May
Genre: mystery
I read it as a(n): Kindle book
Length: 401 pp
Her Grace’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Black House by Peter May is marketed as a mystery that will leave readers spellbound. Set on the isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, the book brings Detective Inspector Fin MacLeod back to his hometown to investigate the murder of a local man. MacLeod finds himself on a journey into the heart of darkness, where secrets and mysteries are closely guarded by the insular community.

I say it was marketed as a mystery because I didn’t think there was really all that much mystery to it. Yes, there was a murder being investigated. But except for a couple scenes interviewing people and a thoroughly described autopsy, the main part of the story focused on the villagers of Lewis and their connected past. That is actually a-ok with me, as I was far more interested in the culture of the Outer Hebrides than I was in the murder. I actually learned a lot and am curious to visit, though I am in no way strong enough to live in a place like that.

May’s writing is atmospheric – he includes vivid descriptions of the island’s rugged landscape and the harsh realities of life in the remote community. The characters are complex and nuanced, with their own secrets and motives that are slowly revealed throughout the book. I learned that the Outer Hebrides is primarily where Gaelic is spoken today, and it is still actually the primary language. So now I’m on a mission to visit so I can hear it in the wild, so to speak.

One of the things I really liked about The Black House is the way May weaves together multiple storylines and perspectives. He did so in a way that meshed together seamlessly, creating a tapestry of intrigue and suspense throughout. The pacing might be slow for some readers but I liked the greater focus on the Hebridean culture more than the actual mystery portion anyway. I did not figure out who killed the man on Lewis or why until it was revealed in the story. When it was revealed, I thought it was rather rushed and not believable. However, there was another tangent that MacLeod missed entirely and he was surprised when he learned about it. I am guessing a woman would not have been surprised and probably would have figured it out right quick.

Overall, The Black House is an interesting bit of storytelling, combining beautiful scenic descriptions, complex characters, and a mostly ok plot into a quick read.


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