cover image The Blackhouse

The Blackhouse

Carole Johnstone. Scribner, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-9821-9967-8

Journalist Maggie MacKay, the principal narrator of this eerie gothic thriller from Johnstone (Mirrorland), has long held the unshakable belief that her name is really Andrew MacNeil, that she’s from a place called Kilmeray, and that someone there killed her—despite the apparent lack of evidence that anyone named Andrew MacNeil ever lived, or died, on that storm-buffeted Outer Hebrides island. Recently discharged from a London psychiatric hospital after a psychotic breakdown following her mother’s traumatic death, Maggie sets off to Kilmeray, determined to unravel the mystery. Not surprisingly, most of the island’s inhabitants prove less than forthcoming, one exception being hunky farmer Will Morrison, to whom Maggie feels an instant attraction. Soon, alarming events start to occur, like the night she discovers the mummified corpses of two crows outside her isolated cottage. As Maggie’s research gradually makes headway, and her romance with Will heats up, suspense grows with the introduction of a second narrator, whose horrific account unfolds 25 years earlier. Despite the pace occasionally dragging, this ghost story ultimately packs a gale-force wallop. Johnstone is a writer to watch. Agent: Hellie Ogden, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Jan.)