Is the young man merely drunk or does his tottering walk suggest something more sinister?
When he collapses, vomiting, over the two whores who find him on that dark wet night, they guess rightly that he’s been murdered by poisoning.
So begins this gripping tale set in the town of Banff, Scotland in the 1620s. The body of the victim, the provost’s nephew and apothecary’s apprentice, is found in Alexander Seaton’s school house. Seaton is a school master by default, and a persona non-grata in the town – a disgraced would-be minister whose love affair with a local aristocrat’s daughter left him disgraced and deprived of his vocation. He has few friends, so when one of them is accused of the murder, he sets out to solve the crime, embarking on a journey that will uncover witchcraft, cruelty, prejudice and the darkness in men’s souls.
It is also a personal quest that leads Alexander to the rediscovery of his faith in God as well as his belief in himself.
Among her many strengths, Shona MacLean is brilliant at evoking period and place. You feel you are in those cold, dark, northern rooms, eavesdropping on her characters. You are totally involved in the rich, convincing world she has re-created.
Second historical thriller in the Alexander Seaton series sweeps the hero back to his roots in Ulster, and a family living under a curse and riven with long-held secrets.
It is 1628, Charles I is on the throne, and the British Crown is finally taking control of Ulster.
Returning to his rooms one night, Alexander Seaton is shocked to find a stranger standing there – a man who could be his double. His name is Sean O’Neill, and he carries a plea for help from Maeve O’Neill, forbidding matriarch of Alexander’s mother’s family in Ireland. All those who bear their blood have been placed under a poet’s curse: one by one they are going to die. Only Alexander is immune, his O’Neill heritage a secret from all but his closest family.
Alexander travels to Ulster, to find himself at the heart of a family divided by secrets and bitter resentments. As he seeks out the author of the curse, he becomes increasingly embroiled in the conflict until – confronted with murder within his own family – his liberty and, finally, his life, are at stake.