This crime thriller set on the Island of Lewis offers plenty of tension, drama and surprises. The Island of Lewis plays a starring role with vivid descriptions of the landscape and a unique insight into what it is like growing up on a Scottish island. If you are planning a trip to the Western Isles and want to know more about them than just the usual tourist information then this is definitely one to get your hands on.
I previously reviewed Hebridies, a beautiful photography book, that introduced me to Peter May's novels. Many of the pictures in this book are related to places that feature in his novels and I was inspired to read The Black House.
Although the crime drama of this book is very gripping it was the descriptions of the island and the story of the main character's childhood that I enjoyed the most. My main motivation for reading the book was to learn a bit more about island life. I have explored these islands by bicycle and visited many of the tourist sites, but this does not always give you much of an idea of what it is actually like to live here.
The book moves between the present day investigation of the murder and the story of Fin Macleod's childhood. This gives you a superb insight into the unique way of life on the islands. In particular, a large part of the book describes the annual guga (gannet) hunt, a strong tradition of the island community. Each year a group of men travel to a remote island, more of a rock, and spend two weeks hunting and processing thousands of gannets. The meat of the birds is a delicacy on the islands. As you can imagine it is a controversial subject and May includes a character who is an animal right's activist in the novel.
Other aspects of island life that feature in the novel include religion, Gaelic, and schooling. Although the book has a lot of dark moments there is also a bit of humour. I loved the part when the young Fin and his school friends steal a tractor tyre from a neighbouring village so that their bonfire will be better than the rival village. This inevitably goes wrong with hilarious consequences.
The book concludes in dramatic fashion and I couldn't put it down until I got to the end.
If you are heading off on a trip to Lewis then this is a great book to take with you as you travel around.
You can buy it from Amazon by clicking on this image:
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.