The Blackhouse … a review

You might start to see a pattern here related to the Isle of Lewis. But I can assure you that it was pure chance that I mentioned The Guga Hunters to a friend and she had read something similar in this book. So I felt I should read it too. This is the first book of The Lewis Trilogy, where Detective Inspector Finlay Macleod of Leonard’s Land Police Station in Edinburgh (sigh!) faces the ghosts of his past as horrible murders and island histories unfold around him. He is pulled into a case when his island background is deemed advantageous. In any case, it is almost a full move for him as he leaves his wife of many years in Edinburgh. The death of their young child has forced them apart and our dark and brooding hero makes the long journey to one of the remotest of island in the Outer Hebrides. Practically the edge of the world, if you ask me.

 This is a very good book. The pace is not very fast, no car chases, no gunmen, no drama. Just a careful unravelling of the close ties that knit an island community together. There are shared histories that follow every character around, and even if, like Fin, you had left years and years ago, you still got sucked into it as soon as you stepped back onto the island. There is more about the annual guga hunt. In fact, it has a bit with all of the details of how it is actually conducted. And eventually, it is here that the drama ends up, on this rock surrounded by the Atlantic – ruthless and relentless.

 The resolution of events was a bit predictable. Or maybe that is the wrong word, let us just say that it did not surprise me. But there were plenty of elements on the way that did, and kept me hooked. Fin is very likeable, with his confusion and his good looks. He has been dominating my reading scene since, and I’m on the last part of the trilogy just now. If you are into crime thrillers, tartan noir, handsome messed-up men, Scottish islands, go for it!

Smokeheads … a review

I picked this book up from a friend’s bedside table and when I began reading it, I was pleasantly surprised at the style of writing. The author has a very free flowing style which makes it one of those books that are very easy to read in one go. Problem for me since I picked it up on a Sunday night! But this is about four friends from Scotland who have been together since their University days and have a common bond through being lovers of scotch. They plan to take a trip to Islay. Those who know Scotland will know it as a western isle famous for its distilleries and A class single malt. Various motives and back stories start to come to light as and when the trip progresses and it is very nice how the author has brought out the different natures of the men very well. Apart from some shared common history and the trip, the men seem to have nothing in common. That is, until, a series of unfortunate events occur on the island that will change the way they view their lives forever.

Now, I must tell you, when I read a thriller, I don’t try to guess who the villain is and nor do I try to guess where the story is going. I just read. If you are one of those more prodding readers, then you might be disappointed because the plot is quite predictable. I  did not mind it, it was fast paced and well written. And finally, when I looked the author up, I found that this book is a genre called tartan noir – so sort of like the Scottish version of nordic noir. This interested me greatly and I will be reading more of this genre for sure – i combines two of my favourite themes. I have already picked up another one of this same author’s books.

Greenvoe … a review


I picked up this book because it was the only one I found that was by George Mackay Brown. I wanted to read something by him because he’s called The Bard of Orkney and I wanted to read something that was set in the islands and so I got this book and the South Uist one. Anyway, I read this first. It is about the tight-knit community on the Orcadian island of Hellya, where residents are trying to come to terms with the destruction weilded by Operation Black Star, a military project that needs the island for some unknown purpose.

Now, while as a story it is well-written, with a nice poetic prose language. The narrative spans a week in the life of the islanders – everyone from school going children to boatmen. Most of the book is about the day to day lives of these people, what they do, what they think, how they talk etc. However, I was not very intensely moved by the book. I kept getting mixed up with all the characters, I thought there were too many of them.

I was able to keep reading because every now and then, I’d come to a sub-plot, about dark secrets or growing up, and I’d be engrossed for the next 30 pages or so. But then I’d be left confused for another while until the next good sub-plot came along. So while it had lovely language, it did not have enough cohesiveness in the plot for me. And so, it was probably a bad book by the author to have picked up as a first read.

Have any of you read anything else by him? Any recommendations?


Musing Mondays (September 23)

Musing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

  • Describe one of your reading habits.
  • Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
  • What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! 
  • Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
  • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
  • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

My Musing:

I am going through a spate of, as I call it, Scotland reading. I am trying to read stuff set in places I have been to, the highlands, the islands. I am also trying to read books about places that I haven’t had a chance to visit, or maybe never will. I bought a couple of books a couple of weeks ago, one set in Orkney and another one set in South Uist. I love the Hebrides. I believe that they are a generalised lot, but each island, each settlement has got tremendous character and poignance of its own. The islands of Scotland are a land of harsh climes and warm hearths – they are lands that are ravaged by the cycles of nature and yet are ever-changing and unchanging. I think the islands off the coast of the Island (UK) are just  that – islands of islands. Can a satellite have satellites?