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Customer Review

117 of 122 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark secrets, August 16, 2011
This review is from: The Blackhouse (Hardcover)
The novel is set on the remote island of Lewis far off the coast of northern Scotland. This is an area that the author will know well since he spent several years there producing and filming the Gaelic language TV series, Machair. This gives an authenticity to the very strong descriptions of this remote, rugged, weather-beaten corner of the British Isles. In particular, May's description of the annual guga (gannet) hunt is fascinating both in its detail and in the light it sheds on the island community's strong attachment to its ancient traditions.

DS Fin MacLeod is sent back to Lewis to investigate a murder that resembles one that took place earlier in his Edinburgh patch. Returning home after 20 years away, Fin is thrown into remembering and re-assessing his difficult childhood and adolescence. The book alternates between the present day and Fin's past and it gradually emerges that the shadow of that past may be involved in the current investigation.

At first, I found the alternation between the present and the past irritating as it seemed to break the flow of the story. However, as the links between the two became clearer, the tension gradually mounted and came finally to an unexpected and dramatic climax. Along the way, May describes a community more inclined to deal with problems internally rather than involving the authorities, a place where the young people are beginning to challenge the traditions and strict religious observances of their elders and where dark secrets can sometimes come back to haunt.
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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 27, 2012 9:27:55 AM PDT
Araminta says:
I am interested in this book but hesitate to order it because of your comments on the back-and-forth-in-time chapters. I am reading a book now that does that and it is very frustrating because the chapters are so short that I never get a chance to become absorbed in either storyline. So I am wondering - does The Blackhouse have longer chapters? I might be more inclined to read it if it does, as your very helpful review makes it sound like a great read.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2012 10:08:00 AM PDT
FictionFan says:
Hi Araminta

No the chapters aren't short - I agree very short chapters leaping backwards and forwards is very tiresome. The 'back in time' story is very interesting and contrasts with the present day story to show how the society in this small isolated community has changed in the last few decades. From about halfway you begin to see how the stories are linked - I'm not giving anything away when I say the whole trilogy, of which this is the first, has a theme of the past impacting on the present. I loved this book, loved the follow-up The Lewis Man even more, and am excited that the third and sadly last is due out in January - pre-ordered, of course! I've been a May fan for years, but in my opinion this trilogy is by far his best work.

If you decide to go for it I hope you enjoy it as much as I did :-)

Posted on Oct 27, 2012 11:48:21 AM PDT
Araminta says:
Thank you FictionFan, that was a hasty reply! I have ordered the book and now must settle in for the long wait on delivery to America from England - November 27 or later! Maybe I ought to go ahead and order the rest of the trilogy now. Didn't know it was part of a trilogy, even better. It is hard to let go of an author's story and characters after a book ends, so I am glad it is a series. Thank you for the information; now that I know the chapters are longer I am sure I can deal with the time jumps.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2012 9:59:31 AM PDT
JLF says:
What is the name of the new book and how did you order it? I "read" the first two of the trilogy on Audible books, but the third will not be made available in the U.S. So how to I get hold of it?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2012 10:10:54 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 30, 2012 10:15:08 AM PDT
FictionFan says:

I live in Scotland - so ordered it over here. It's called The Chessmen (Lewis Trilogy 3) and looks as if it'll be out on Kindle in the US in December which is even earlier than in the UK. Don't see a date for the paper book though in the US, and it's not listed on Audible in the UK yet. So looks like you'll have to get a Kindle...or move to Scotland! :-)

Edit - you could always order it from, of course, but I don't know whether that would be really expensive postage charges?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2012 12:21:22 PM PDT
JLF says:
Thank you for the information. I'll investigate what the best course of action will be. A trip to Scotland would be lovely. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2012 2:27:58 PM PDT
Araminta says:
I tried to order a paper book from amazonUK once and they couldn't deliver to USA. Luckily my brother lives in England so I had it sent to him, and he mailed it to me. I don't know if things have changed; that was about 3 years ago.

Posted on Nov 19, 2012 9:05:43 PM PST
Araminta says:
Hi there again - just got my book in the mail and am so excited. I read the first page, love the writing and can see I have chosen well, with your help of course. Do you happen to ever read The New York Times Book Review? There is quite a laudatory mini-review of Peter May's books in the latest edition. Many thanks again!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2012 9:40:06 PM PST
FictionFan says:
Hi Araminta - just finished reading The Chessmen which came out early on UK Kindle yesterday and was a really great read. Each of these three books has been better than the one before. I really hope you enjoy them all as much as I did. Thanks for the heads-up re the article - I'll look out for it. The only problem is that the series was so short...I'm thinking of getting up a petition to make Peter May write some more!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 8:48:05 PM PST
Araminta says:
I am encouraged by the NY Times review, as it leads me to believe that May's books will soon be available in US bookstores. And hey, I will join your campaign to force him to write some more! I have to go on and order the second one now and hope The Chessmen will be available very soon.
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Review Details



Location: Kirkintilloch, Scotland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 597