Monday, June 11, 2012
Review of The Black House by Peter May (Quercus, 2011)
The Black House is written in expressive prose that’s very easy on the eye. The sense of place, the characterization, and the close community relations are very well done, placing the reader into the landscape and society of Lewis. The telling alternates between the present, told in the third person, and flash backs to Macleod’s childhood, told in the present tense. It’s a plot device that works well, providing vital contextual back story. Unfortunately, it is also over elaborated and it would have been possible to trim much of it back in length without losing any important material. Certainly 50 plus pages could be edited from the book without the story suffering in any great way. The other main issue is the telegraphing of the mystery element of the plot. By a third of the way through I’d worked out who the killer was and roughly why; I was holding out for a major plot twist, but although a twist did come it was one that confirmed my deduction rather than challenged it. All in all, a nicely written book that provides an interesting tale with a strong sense of place and community, but is overly long and has a weak plot with respect to the murder investigation though not Macleod’s personal history.