Scottish-born author May has had a rather varied career. He started out in journalism, but switched to TV screenwriting after being asked to adapt his first novel, The Reporter (1978), as a 13-part BBC series called The Standard. In 1996 he quit television to resume his book-writing career, producing half a dozen mysteries set in China (beginning with 1999’s The Firemaker) before embarking on a second series, that one starring Enzo Macleod, a half-Italian, half-Scottish forensic scientist turned university biology professor with a particular skill for solving cold-case crimes. (2011’s Blowback is the latest installment in the Enzo series.)
And just recently, publisher SilverOak released The Blackhouse, which originally saw print in French translation back in 2009.
The Blackhouse takes place on the Isle of Lewis, part of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides archipelago, and introduces us to Detective Sergeant Fin Macleod, who grew up on that island but now works with the police in Edinburgh. Fleeing a crumbling marriage, and still reeling from the accidental death of his only child, Macleod comes to the Outer Hebrides to investigate a ghastly homicide that’s similar to one committed on his big-city home turf. One might think Macleod could find some solace in these familiar and rocky environs. However, his boyhood among the island’s hardened souls and fundamentalist churches was something less than thoroughly happy, and numerous ghosts—along with plenty of other more tangible dangers—await him there. The solution to this tale’s mystery may dwell in a trauma Macleod has long suppressed.
Abundant in back-story, manifest grief and corrosive fears, The Blackhouse is the opening installment in what promises to be an engrossing trilogy. ~ Jeff Pierce