Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Blackhouse by Peter May

Writing a tale of crime isn't as easy as it often appears to be. Creating a whodunnit a la Colonel Mustard with the frying pan in the library seems to be simplicity itself. It isn't, and the crime writers of today have to be able to add a special flavour or essence to it, to stand out from the rest.

In May's case it is that particular brand of imagery combined with realistic characters and the ability to place the reader right there in the centre of the story.

It is almost as if the reader is walking right along beside Detective Fin MacLeod during the read. You can feel the cold wind and the vast emptiness of the island.

I have to admit to not having any prior knowledge about the annual Hebridean guga hunt, This actual real life event plays an important part in this story. I came away from the book with sudden realisation that this wasn't just a fictional sub-plot or a bygone tradition from days of old, and it does in fact still take place in our modern-day and age. There is written confirmation of the event dating back to 1549 probably eve further back.

I believe in sustaining traditions to a certain point, but surely there is a different way to connect to the past without the senseless culling of thousands of chicks each year?

If you have lived in a village you will be well acquainted with the atmosphere in this book. If you weren't born there you are an outsider and will always be an outsider. All problems are dealt with internally and any external influence is frowned upon. On an island this feeling is multiplied to the point of paranoia.

This becomes apparent in Fin's handling of the case. He often acts with the best intention of the islanders at the forefront of his mind. as opposed to handling the situation the way a policeman should.

Perhaps if he had left his emotions at home the murderer wouldn't have been given as much leeway or a chance to create more damage.There is no such thing as objective when friends and family are involved.

I have to say I really enjoyed May's particular style of creation and plot weaving.
I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss, courtesy of Quercus.

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