20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Blackhouse: Book One of the Lewis Trilogy (Paperback)
I was after an easy read and bought this book as it appeared at face value to be a fairly simple whodunnit murder mystery. Not a bit of it. It worked for me on many levels. There is the murder and it's investigation, which drives the plot forward, but it's the skeleton that everything else is attached to. The central character, Fin is telling his own historical story and the author relates the present day action. This works pretty well, ensuring you don't go wrong as the story dovetails between the two. I was bitten by the descriptions of the island, even going as far as peering at Google Earth to enhance my understanding. (Wish I'd known Crobost was fictional beforehand though.)
The telling of Fin's early life and loves brought to mind Thomas Hardy, both in the style of May's writing and how his relationships seem doomed to complicated failures, the fault of Fin's flawed character as much as the other characters. You wonder if there's autobiographical elements here. There is a sense of foreboding that builds as the book progresses through the setbacks of Fin's life that gives the ending an unexpected feel. I would also agree May builds a real sense of claustophobia, no mean feat in the open, practically tree-less island with stunning beaches and wild but picturesque landscapes. Sub-plots include the changing ways of island life over a 30 year period, Fin's job and the annual controversial guga cull.
So did I get my easy read? Not as I thought. The book was much more involved and demanding that I anticipated. But it so easily draws you in and carries you along. Ultimately much more rewarding than a simple murder mystery. I like to read in the bath and a good judge of a book for me is how much I read at a time there. Cold water and prune-like skin became a problem.
I certainly recommend this book and will look forward eagerly to the next two.