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4.2 out of 5 stars39
4.2 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 August 2013
For the third book in the series following the life and times of Alexander Seaton, we return to Aberdeen. A colleague is murdered and Seaton becomes embroiled in the search for the killer. There's some backfill to the first two books and this works very well as a standalone.

I find Alexander totally engaging as a character. He is growing with each book and is now a married family man, with anxieties and conflicts based on human frailty. As in the first book, the introspective nature of University life and the confines of a largely academic circle in Aberdeen are prescriptive and almost tangible. The cloistered world of study could be cloying and dull, but Ms Maclean weaves a spellbinding tale around the search for the killer. Once again, there's a significant historical background based on alchemy and a 17th century search for a universal truth. It's great stuff; a book which I was reluctant to put it down and was wondering what would happen next.

All in all, a great well rounded and likeable central character who develops as an individual, plausible locations and a plot which is well paced throughout and cleverly woven around fact. Loved it.
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on 31 August 2011
This was my first outing with Alexander Seaton and it will not be my last ,as this was a cracking who done it, full of many twist and turns as our learned investigator try's to find the killer of the Librarian of Marischal College in 1631 Aberdeen. The joy for me in a good Historical novel is first class research and a love of the period and Shona MacLean has done this in spades,as she leads us into the dark secrets of alchemy and hermetics as well as building up to a thrilling climax that has you guessing right to the end. I will now find the first two adventures of Alexander Seaton and if they are as good as Crucible of Secrets I be in for a treat.
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on 16 May 2012
My only minor gripe with this novel, and which cost it a star, is that, after `The Redemption` and `Sorrows` the plot of this one seemed a bit pedestrian at times. In fact, I got the impression that there was some padding here and there, but overall very much better than some purportedly `historical` novels I have read. Having lived in Aberdeen, I know those of the locations which still exist(although what Mr Seaton would make of them nowadays I don`t know) and for me that added to the authenticity of the research, as do the accounts of the Scots scholars spending years stravaiging about continental Europe, which was common at that time in pursuit of learning. Prominent in the plot is the subject of alchemy and the mysteries of the masons. As in all the best crime stories, the twist is in the tail, although in retrospect there are clues.
If you are new to Shona MacLean, go back and start with `The Redemption of Alexander Seaton` which sets the flavour of the period and introduces some of the characters. You`ll want to read more.
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on 30 March 2013
THe third book in the Alexander Seaton series is a real whodunnit and right up until the en keeps the reader guessing. The book almost reviews contemporary issues in it's historical setting with realtionships to the fore as well as brotherhoods. The characters are again very engaging and I liked the fact that Seaton's wife Sarah has a large role in the book and that her character and her relationship with her husband Alexander unfolds, and not altogether smoothly, as is akin to most marriages I suppose.
The book is also very good at setting the scene and really gives a feel for 17th Century Scotland.
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on 20 November 2015
The Alexander Seaton books just get better and better. Where the first one is a little hard to get into there's a real feeling the author hits her stride on book 2 and by Crucible it's matching writers Like C.J. Sansom for the feeling of authenticity and plot. There's also great interplay between the characters, it's always a good sign when a writer can make you laugh with their character at something that is only funny in that situation and in their world. The only negative I have about this book is the sinking feeling you'll have when you realise there is only one more.
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on 13 April 2013
The obvious comparison is with C J Sansome - MacLean is not quite at that level as a writer, but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed this romp through seventeenth-century Aberdeen. He's done some research and captured a reasonable flavour (or should I say - convincing to the non-expert reader) of the life of the city. Literary comparisons with Hilary Mantel, made by one or two other reviewers, are however well wide of the mark.
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on 11 February 2015
An enjoyable historical "whodunit" which rattles along nicely enough. Not as good as the Gil Cunningham series but comparable with the Hew Cullen series. I did find the author's inability to use the verb "to give " correctly (the past tense is "given", not "gifted", which is actually an adjective meaning "talented") rather irritating (it occurs a lot in this story!) but I still enjoyed this as an easy read.
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on 16 November 2013
Although not as good as the first book of the series ''The redemption of Alexander Seaton'' this was still a rattling good read. The historical detail was as ever excellent to the point where I wish I had studied History at University rather than what I did!!Shona MacLean made this period of history come to life for me. Hopefully she will write many more novels
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on 22 April 2013
If you haven't yet met Alexander Seaton I recommend you to start with number one, his story continues in this the third book. Ostensibly murder mysteries the whodunnit aspect is almost incidental to the story of this troubled man coming to terms with his past and family and finding happiness in the present. I hope there are many more to come.
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on 12 September 2013
This is the third in the series and is every bit as good as the other two. I come from the North of Scotland so know the areas described in the book but I don't think it would matter if you had never been to Scotland. Its the characters that are the attraction.
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