The Blackhouse” by Carole Johnstone

Review by Yvonne Selander, collection development librarian

When Maggie was 5 years old she announced that she was really Andrew and was murdered in the town of Kilmeray. Her mom brought her to the island community, but no one knew of anyone named Andrew who was missing or murdered and they returned home. Many years later, Maggie’s mother is dead, Maggie has had an episode, she’s lost her job and she just ended a long term, abusive relationship. Free of any ties to the city, Maggie decides to return to Kilmeray to discover if there was any kernel of truth to the story of her childhood or if it was somehow all made up by the adults around her. Despite the denials of any knowledge of Andrew or his murder it seems that someone wants her to leave.

Told in two timelines from two points of view this murder mystery also becomes a commentary on the treatment of mental illness. The suffering and stigma of the 1990s are in stark contrast to the treatment and struggles of the characters in the present day. It’s shocking to read about the actions of these (albeit fictional) characters 30 years ago, heartening to read of Maggie’s experiences now but still evident that we have a long way to go.

Fan of audiobooks? Can’t beat the Scottish brogues on this one! The voice actors really transport you to the wild coastlines of the Outer Hebrides.