Island Lore of The Black House by Peter May // Summary and Review

The Black House is not the first book by Peter May I read, and I am sure it is not the last one, as I enjoyed it to the last page. Before this one, I read Coffin Road, which is also set on an island, but I liked this one more. I rarely like the second book by the author more than the first one, but it did happen with Peter May. kudos.

Black Hosue, though a detective novel, does not focus on crime investigations. But it is an investigation all right. The protagonist, or the narrator, Fin, is on Lewis Island after a long time. He was born there, and after school, he left for Glasgow to pursue graduation. However, he flicked it, too, and joined the police force.

Fin recently lost his son in a hit-and-run case, and his marriage also broke when he moved to the island to solve a case. Though it seems he is suffering from this pain, later, you find out there is more going on at the subconscious level.

When you go back to your hometown after a long time, everything seems to have changed, but also not changed. It is like you have time-traveled, and everyone is different and has a very different life than you remember.

Fin is investigating Angel’s death, a bully everyone hates on the island. So I was expecting an Island-Collecively-Killing-an-Evil-Person ending. But the author has a much better plan.

During the investigation, Fin meets many old friends, uncovers lost secrets, scratches old wounds, finds surprises, and discovers the true source of his pain. A typical trip to your hometown.

ther black house by peter may book

Island & tradition

The story is set on a Nordic island. It is a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone. The close group of men partake in a tradition of Guga hunting. They all go to another island and spend 2 weeks there. It is like a boy scout, but much more grim and harsh.

It is a privilege to be selected and accepted by the Guga Hunters group. Guga Hunters is another sub-community that is even closer, and they all keep each other’s secrets. All the men may hate each other outside, but when it comes to Guga tradition, they are all a unit.

This tradition is an important part of the book. Peter May does not disappoint when sketching the island and the Guga hunting process. It was good reading that nearly takes you there.

Obviously, there is a ‘Save the Guga’ group to balance the killings, but the community loves this tradition. Traditions are hard to kill, as it is as much about the camaraderie as the exercise.

However, with such communities come dark secrets. The book revolves around one of them.

Forgetting is betrayal

When two people suffer the same tragedy, and one forgets about it, it is like a betrayal to the other person who remembers it. Plus, it is so discouraging and hectic to think about what you deem an important part of your life that the other person does not register even as a memory.

Fin and Artair are both best friends. But Fin gets to leave the town and forget all the abuse and bullying. While Artair has to live on the island, with all the humiliation, shame, and guilt forever. Over it, he has to take care of his paralyzed mother, marry the girl rejected by Fin, and take care of Fin’s son — Fin, who betrayed him and is responsible for all of this misery.

The book has a great sentence, which roughly means that the hate you cause to others due to jealousy does not reduce the hurt you are feeling yourself. But what is a person supposed to do when jealousy is out of control, and the person who made your life difficult does not know it? Zen, Yoga? Like Sebastian Verlac burned down Alicante, Artair burned Fin’s life.

Artair felt betrayed by Fin, and then Marsilli (or whoever it is written) ignited the jealousy with her lies. Though he was wrong many times, the book could have been softer to him. There could have been a redemption arc somehow like there was one for ANgel.

Friendly bullies

Angel is dead already in the first few pages, but he lingers throughout the book. He is the bully in school, in adult life, and throughout, a menace to the entire community. But still, he is a part of it, and they all bear it.

But one boy liked him a lot. Angel pranked a boy, and the boy lost his leg. The cripple he became, and Angel helped him for years. Plus, the rape charge on the Angel was also removed.

He got some redemption, a nice gesture from the boys taking care of the boys. Which is also the crux of the story. Men take matters into their own hands, not involving the government or police.

Community judgement

When they learn about Artair and Fin, they never call the police. The man talked with Mr Maccine and confronted him in front of 20 men he respected and wished to get respect from. The law cannot do what a shame can. But it is not even law, it is the trust and respect of small community.

Shame in the middle of 20 men is a much harsher punishment than jail for respectful people. You have to care about your image in a small place. Everyone will know, and it will affect your business, social life, and future generations. They all will be remembered by your name and mistakes—even after 50 years. People die, but the legacy lives on.

In cities, no one cares. All that matters is money exchanged for service. The Black House is a great study into the man sphere, small communities, and how not getting help can ruin a nice man. But the worst part is that Artair is the scapegoat in the book. Marsilli insults him, his son insults him, his mother and father insult him, and for everyone around him, he is just a loser, which makes the character empathetic.

Book Summary
The Black House

The Black House by Peter May is rich with island lore and keen insight into how man world operate -- with its pros and cons.


Author: Peter May

Editor's Rating:

Faizan Fahim

Hello, welcome to this blog. Just writing reviews of the book I like. Also, favorite quotes, poetry, memes, sometimes other topics too, but always related to literature. So join me on Twitter to talk to me.

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