Upon a dark and stormy night in 17th-century Scotland …

2010-01-13 00:00


The Redemption of Alexander Seaton

Shona Maclean


AT the outset this historical whodunnit set in 17th-century Scotland looks to have all the right ingredients, ­including a promising start.

Alexander Seaton is a fallen minister turned teacher in the town of Banff. On a dark and stormy night, the local apothecary’s assistant dies in his schoolroom and one of Seaton’s friends is arrested on suspicion of murder.

Determined to prove his friend’s ­innocence, Seaton sets out to find the killer and along the way encounters everything from Catholic plotters and poisonous plants to invasion threats and witch hunts.

The tensions of the time, religious and political, provide fertile ground for a thriller — they were milked to great effect in John Buchan’s classic Witch Wood — but while The Redemption of Alexander Seaton, a debut novel, is entertaining enough, it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Maclean piles on the historical ­detail but never really gets under the skin of the period, neither does she manage to create any real tension, while the overly descriptive writing destroys any sense of pace, leaving the story to play itself out in a decidedly pedestrian manner. And although the final denouement reveals the killer’s identity, it also leaves a number of loose ends. Could this be the beginning of a series?




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