This psychological police procedural (500 pages) was published in August of 2014 by Quercus. The book takes you to the Isle of Lewis, off the coast of Scotland. Melissa read The Blackhouse and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
This murder mystery — set in the outer Hebrides — turns into a psychological character study as the crime is being solved. It’s filled with messy people you’ll grow to care about, and it delves into fascinating local history. Plus, it’s darker than the bottom of a cup of espresso.
The action kicks off with a gruesome murder on the remote Isle of Lewis, just off the northwestern coast of Scotland. The crime is similar to a killing in Edinburgh, so detective Fin Macleod, a Lewis native, is dispatched back to the island to investigate. No one is happy about it: not Fin, not his disappointed wife, not the commander on the island, and not the native islanders who are wholly justified in their grudges, resentments, and tender feelings when Fin resurfaces.
As he digs into the details of the crime, Fin is immersed in the dark events of his childhood in this unforgiving landscape. The island’s terrain and raw, primal weather shape the narrative as much as the people who populate it.
This is a riveting look at the damage secrets can do to the living and the dead. The detailed story of ancient bird hunts that continue on a nearby island today was challenging to read, but also un-put-downable. The hunt is a brutal two-week rite-of-passage for the island’s men, during which a crew of 12 kills, cleans, smokes, and transports thousands of birds in a ritual that reaches back through the centuries.
Yes, this all sounds pretty grim — and there’s more disturbing detail in the narrative — but somehow, this book isn’t depressing. It’s dark, moving, and sometimes upsetting, but Fin’s humanity keeps it from falling into despair.
Just beyond our landing point, the rock folded away into one of its cathedral caves. It was dark and creepy, with the eerie sound of water sucking on rock echoing from somewhere deep within its blackness like the rasping breath of some living creature. It was easy to imagine how legends of sea monsters and dragons had grown out of such places. — Peter May
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is © 2022 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.