High Tide, but Not My Vibe

The Blackhouse

by CarolE Johnstone

Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for the chance to review this book.

The author of Mirrorland is back with a mystery that takes place on a rural Scottish fishing island towering over the sea.

Maggie Mackay is a lonely young woman who is mourning the recent loss of her mother. After her death, Maggie decides to get to the bottom of what happened in her childhood. When she was little, Maggie insisted that she was a man named Robert Reid. Her mother, who claimed psychic abilities, changed Maggie’s life forever when she decided to take her to Kilmeray, the town in which Maggie claimed was home to Robert. At the tender age of 5, Maggie claimed that she was Robert Reid reincarnated, and someone in the town had killed him. The problem is that the townsfolk said that Robert Reid was not murdered– he drowned in a big storm the same night as another little boy named Lorne. The residents of the island assumed that Robert had died while trying to save Lorne.

Now in her 20s, Maggie returns to Kilmeray in order to figure out why she feels a connection to Robert Reid. The residents of the island, however, are not as keen on a reunion as Maggie might hope. With nothing but time on her hands, Maggie rents Robert’s Blackhouse on Air BnB and tries to unravel the mystery of Robert Reid.

My first impression of this book was that the imagery was absolutely stunning. Carole Johnstone does an amazing job painting a picture of the powerful waves and the green farmland of Kilmeray. You felt like you could breathe in the lush sea air. Frankly, I want to vacation there. One afternoon in Tokyo makes you want to take a stack of books to a remote place like Kilmeray and bask in the isolation.

But, I unfortunately liked the idea of Kilmeray more than I liked the plot of The Blackhouse. The story moved rather slowly, and there was WAY too much build up to both Robert and Maggie’s backstories. The author kept including end-of-chapter cliffhangers, but she didn’t give the reader any morsels of information that would help them guess what’s next. It left me feeling frustrated and bored all at the same time. When the “big reveals” finally did come, they were a let-down. I think if more information had been fed to me earlier in the book, I would have felt more invested in the story. It wouldn’t have moved my rating to five stars, but it certainly would have helped.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

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