Quercus (Dec 3 2013) - Sortie US en 2014
432 pages - 9.99 $ Kindle édition
Another one of those times when the cover attracted my eye... and it's not that bad since the publisher did not provide any description on the NetGalley site. It was not until I try to find what it was that I trully was happy to have chosen it. And I discovered that this was in Scotland, on an island and it talks of Edinburgh of which I have an indelible memory after a week scouring its pubs, its castle, its streets... in short, a city that I love.
The Isle of Lewis is the most remote, harshly beautiful place in Scotland, where the difficulty of existence seems outweighed only by people's fear of God. But older, pagan values lurk beneath the veneer of faith, the primal yearning for blood and revenge. When a brutal murder on the island bears the hallmarks of a similar slaying in Edinburgh, police detective Fin Macleod is dispatched north to investigate. But since he himself was raised on Lewis, the investigation also represents a journey home and into his past. Each year the island's men perform the hunting of the gugas, a savage custom no longer necessary for survival, but which they cling to even more fiercely in the face of the demands of modern morality. For Fin the hunt recalls a horrific tragedy, which after all this time may have begun to demand another sacrifice. The Blackhouse is a crime novel of rare power and vision. Peter May has crafted a page-turning murder mystery that explores the darkness in our souls, and just how difficult it is to escape the past.
What's good about it
Scotland! But not just Scotland, of course.
The 50 shades of... grey atmosphere! But that is because of the weather, cold and wet, the rain, the austerity of the island, its people, hard-working, hard in their moral, hard in their faith. As much as it was nice being on an island, I was not able to warm up throughout the book! For those who have seen the series, a plunge into the atmosphere of the book will give you the impression of having fallen straight into the Hinterland series.
The book follows Fin the detective and Fin the boy who grew up on the island. The passages of the past are written in the first person, whereas the present is written in the third. At the first paragraph of the young Fin, I found the transition to the first person pretty weird but ultimately, it is very well thought out, since it makes it easy to distinguish between the two periods. The return in the past are also very useful to better understand the issues, the discomfort and the more or less difficult relationships in the present. In the end, it gives two stories within one story with one that makes us understand the other.
The relationships between the characters are typical of small villages - the unspoken secrets, the gossips - particularly under the yoke of the church. It is about bullies who make the law at school and that one continues to fear in adulthood. The village microcosm - and worse of an island - is a real breeding ground for bullies, drunks and sinners (I had a good pun with that one in French but it's lost in English... a shame!) and I must say that this book paints a rather dark portrait of human nature. There are still some good figures - I'm thinking of Gigs, gannets hunter or Gunn, the young cop - and Fin, a character that we see grow up and that we learn to appreciate. The Black House is the first book of a trilogy and Fin is a character I'll have pleasure to meet again.
You can feel the love of the author for Scotland, for Lewis, for the tough persons of these countries, for hunting gannets. The descriptions are very
too realistic but for all that, the defender of animal rights who struggles against the annual hunt is not a sympathetic character. Peter May has a real talent for describing - the landscapes are all described and it is perhaps the least pleasant side for me (as a reminder, this is really not my cup of tea!) I admit I jumped several descriptive passages because I think that sometimes too much details kills the detail! (or rather the story)
In a nutshell
A very good book, hard and tough, a human plot, characters we feel we know from childhood. It is a 4/5 for me.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to me by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.