Just one month ago, Detective Fin Macleod and his wife lost their only child in a hit-and-run. It has ruined their marriage. Forcing himself to return to work in Edinburgh, Fin finds himself assigned to a murder investigation on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland-- the place where he was born and lived until he went away to university. It will be his first time back in twenty years.
Arriving in Stornoway he finds that he's unwanted by a Detective Chief Inspector who's looking for the tiniest excuse to get him off the island. Although Fin intuitively knows that there's no real connection between the Lewis murder and the one he was investigating in Edinburgh, he realizes that he can be of real use because he went to school with the dead man and knows many of the names on the suspect list. What he doesn't know is how deeply into his own past his investigation will take him.
The first thing that struck me as I read this book was that the setting should be included in the cast of characters. When Fin Macleod speaks of his childhood on the Isle of Lewis being filled with rainbows, I remembered my first trip to the Isle of Skye when I was bedazzled and enchanted by an endless procession of waterfalls and rainbows. On another trip, I stood on a windswept cliff and looked out across The Minch to the Isle of Lewis and felt its siren song. The author brought this all back to me (and so much more), and I can see many other readers falling under the same spell.
There are two magnets in this book: its setting, and Fin Macleod. The unfolding of his character throughout the book by alternating the present day investigation with childhood flashbacks is brilliant. We see a happy little boy whose life is filled with rainbows change into a teenager who can't wait to leave the island forever, and finally into a quiet man who seems filled with regrets... and secrets. Macleod's return to Lewis turns out to be good both for the island and for himself.
I'm still a bit under the spell of this book, so I am very glad to know that there are two forthcoming volumes that will continue the story. I can't help but wonder if rainbows will make a reappearance in Fin's skies.
The Blackhouse by Peter May
SilverOak © 2012
Hardcover, 368 pages
Police Procedural, #1 in the Lewis trilogy