There’s a distinct whiff of dèja vu about a new novel published today (Tuesday, January 3).
It’s a richly atmospheric thriller called 'The blackhouse' set on an isolated Scottish island where nothing is as it seems and shocking twists lie around every corner.
According to author Carole Johnstone, her latest book is best described as “Gothic, murder-mystery, secrets, multiple twists.”
So avid readers of the peat-noir detective genre could be forgiven for feeling it all sounds a lot like Peter May’s book of the same name.
Talking to Nerd Daily, Johnstone said: “The Blackhouse is a gothic thriller and an unusual murder-mystery set on a fictional island off the stormy west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Outer Hebrides.
“There are two stories, told side by side and narrated by two different characters. The first follows a troubled woman called Maggie MacKay, who, as a child in 1999, claimed that someone on the island murdered a young local man called Robert Reid.”
Inspiration for the novel came after Johnstone, originally from Lanarkshire, and her husband moved to Lewis to live for seven months.
She told Nerd Daily: “We stayed in a very remote settlement called Cliff on the Atlantic coast, and as the autumn arrived and the summer tourists left, we suddenly realised just how alone we actually were. There were lots of storms and power cuts, little to no mobile signal or internet, and it would take us a whole day to get to the other side of the island to restock and refuel. It felt so strange to be living somewhere where you might not see another soul for days or even weeks.”
At the time, Johnstone was still writing her debut Mirrorland novel but was able to outline almost the entire plot of The Blackhouse at the same time.
She added: “ I just knew I had to write a story set on these islands. I missed the Hebrides so badly when we left that writing The Blackhouse felt like being reunited with an old and dear friend!”