The Redemption of Alexander Seaton by Shona MacLean – 20 Books of Summer

The Redemption of Alexander Seaton by Shona MacLean  (S.G. MacLean) was first published in 2008. It’s one of my 20 Books of Summer.

The setting is the town of Banff, Scotland in 1626. It’s 10 o’clock at night and two whores are searching the pockets of a man that they have found lying in the street, but they find nothing. When they realise that the man is ill, not just drunk, they drag him to the schoolhouse where the teacher lives, hoping that he will be able to help the man, but they didn’t stay to speak to the teacher, they were worried about getting involved. In the morning the man is found dead, and it seems he must have been poisoned.

The teacher – Alexander Seaton – had trained for the ministry, but he had been denounced as a sinner, unfit for the job, when the dead body was found he was obviously going to be under suspicion.

Seaton sets about investigating the death, it’s a time of witch hunts and extreme religious fervour, a dangerous mixture.  I really enjoyed this one, it is very atmospheric. Maps feature in the storyline, apparently at that time maps were rare and most people had never seen one, so anyone in possession of one is suspect. I must admit that it’s something I hadn’t really thought about

The Bookseller of Inverness by S.G. MacLean

The Bookseller of Inverness by S.G. MacLean was published in 2022, I found it to be a cracking read, in fact it would make a great film.

Iain MacGillivray had been one of the many Jacobites on Drumossie Moor, Culloden in 1746, and one of the few to get away with his life, although badly wounded, he had feigned death.  It was a terrible time with the Redcoats running amok, pillaging, killing the wounded, and generally causing mayhem and despair within the local communities as they raped and murdered. Six years on and Iain has a bookshop in Inverness where he just wants to put it all behind him, and have nothing to do with the Jacobite cause. But the cause comes to him.

A mystery customer comes to his bookshop, he’s searching for a particular book but refusing to give any information at all, he’s going through all the books one by one. At the end of the day Iain has to practically throw the stranger out so that he can shut the shop, but when he opens it up the next morning he finds the stranger dead, his throat had been cut by a sword with a white cockade on its hilt – a Jacobite symbol.

Iain is surprised to discover that his Jacobite sympathies have resurfaced, and the behaviour of most of the Redcoats in the local barracks only strengthens his feelings.  Someone is settling scores, and it transpires that there’s another Jacobite plot afoot.

This was apparently a Times Audio Book of the Week with the comment that ‘This slice of historical fiction takes you on a wild ride.’

If you do read any books by S.G. (Shona) MacLean you should make sure that you read the Author’s notes at the end of the book. They’re always fascinating, her family background is steeped in the Scottish Highlands, where she still lives, and her uncle was the thriller writer Alistair MacLean. Shona MacLean obviously takes after him.