You Can Go Home Again

The Black House, by Peter May

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The twentieth century saw many people leave the land of their roots for what seemed more opportunity in the growing, vital urban areas. And many of these discovered that this move didn’t allow new roots and a new culture; instead it left them emotionally adrift. Peter May embraces this idea by setting his story off the Scottish coast on the Isle of Lewis, where Gaelic is still spoken, where centuries of hunting on a speck of an isle constantly renew those who live on Lewis – and those who have returned there.

Edinburgh cop Fin McLeod is tasked with returning to Lewis, the place of his birth and early years, in order to assess whether a grisly murder on Lewis is in fact connected with a very similar murder in Edinburgh. The author’s rendering of this link, and the solving of the murder on Lewis, is handled in a somewhat slapdash manner, but the murders aren’t really his project in The Black House. Instead, it’s an examination of Fin’s roots on Lewis after an eighteen year absence, his renewed relationships with old friends—and an old lover. It betrays nothing to tell that the Isle of Lewis, despite bitter memories, which include a handful of deaths, reaches out to Fin, urges him home.

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May’s writing here casts a somber but deeply rendered mood over his story, reminding this reader of Dennis Lehane’s writing. His prose is often exquisite, his depictions of hunting birds on a forbidding isle named An Sqeir perfectly rendered. Reading May’s work here is an opportunity to immerse oneself in an ancient culture that struggles daily to remain pristine and yet vital.

My rating 17 of 20 stars

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