The Black House (US) is, in the main, set on the Isle of Lewis. It’s a harsh landscape with a community culture that is tight and out of the ordinary.
DI Inspector Fin MacLeod is sent to investigate the murder which opens the novel because of possible connections to an earlier case in Edinburgh. For MacLeod this means returning to the childhood home from which he escaped at the first opportunity.
During the investigation, MacLeod revisits links to his past in the form of people and places. As he does, the complexities of his life and the way things might have been close in on him as ever-decreasing circles.
At its core this is a police procedural, and it’s not a bad one at that.
The descriptions of the island are vivid and impressive and made me want to go over at some point.
The characters are all interesting and the murder investigation proceeds with the ups and downs one might expect.
That being said, it is a long book and it did feel it at times.
There are a couple of things that slow things down for me.
First of all, there are the two narratives. The first is in the present and follows Fin as his life crumbles and he chases a killer. The second is told in the first person by Fin as he reflects upon his childhood.
The childhood element is important in many ways, but for me it tended to get in the way. It was a little unsettling to the flow to my mind and might have been better told in a different form, perhaps through the encounters he had as he did his job.
The other aspect that tarnishes things slightly is the way the pieces fit together in ways that seem too clean.
I did enjoy the read. The opening is strong and I really did rattle towards the ending with some urgency where I found I was totally thrown and was very nicely done.
For readers who favour modern British detective fiction this is likely to be a satisfying read. I’d also recommend it to people interested in life on a Scottish Isle.
My suspicion is that the next books in the trilogy are likely to be tighter and more gripping; for me though, I’ll take a rest from Lewis for now and will pick up the thread when I have the leisure of lots of reading time on my hands.