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4.1 out of 5 stars99
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 28 September 2011
I downloaded this book for only 86p. I am always sceptical of anything that is cheaper that the usual price. I must admit that I was really surprised and I found it hard to put down. The characters are very alive, except the ones that have been murdered. There is a good intertwining plot, which keeps one guessing for most of the book. I know the location well and found that I was literally walking about St. Andrews with the characters. I am now looking forward to reading the next one.
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VINE VOICEon 21 June 2009
I normally prefer detective stories set in the present day but I hugely enjoyed this absorbing and subtle thriller set in 16th century Scotland, during the early years of King James VI's reign. The (comparative) unfamiliarity of the setting adds to the book's appeal as we learn about a society ostensibly ruled by the stern and unyielding Kirk yet which is full of people troubled by hidden passions - and sleazy secrets. Although the novel is clearly very well researched the reader is never bombarded with superfluous period detail - just a wonderfully convincing sense of the texture of everyday life.

Hew Cullan, the novel's young amateur detective hero, has just returned from France to his native St Andrews and is horrified when an old friend appears to be implicated in the murder of a boy apprentice. Of course nothing is quite as it seems - and the death toll soon begins to mount. Hew is a nicely restrained hero - tolerant, good humoured and diplomatic. The mystery is very well done - full of sensational (but believable) twists and turns - and it is rounded off with a thoroughly satisfying and well earned denouement.

I read Hue and Cry very quickly and was pleased that the novel seems to be planned as the first of a series - I definitely want to find out what Hew Cullan does next ...
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on 17 August 2011
After 6 years of studying Law in Paris, Hew Cullan returns to his home in St Andrews, Scotland and becomes embroiled in investigating the events surrounding the death of a thirteen year old boy. This is truly an absorbing murder mystery set in 16th century Scotland, encapsulating the period perfectly with good research and the right level of social commentary. There is just the right level of complexity in the plot to underline and retain the reader's intrigue up to the last page.

The Spire Chronicle
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on 13 August 2011
This is a book that gripped me from beginning to end. If you like historical mystery stories, this is for you. I couldn't put my Kindle down and as soon as I finished, wanted to read more 'Hew Cullen' stories. The other thing it did - it made me curious about the history of the time the book was set in.

Dai
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on 3 November 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I had never read anything connected with a Scottish university in the 16th century before - it sounds dry but was far from it. Hew Cullan is likeable and his sister and friends are too. The twists in the plot kept me reading, and the constant fear that some poor woman was to be sacrificed as a witch niggled at me throughout. Technically the book explains early methods of dying and the cloth trade - intriguing. And who would want to be an undergraduate in the 16th century after reading this story? Well, you might if you had enough money to light a fire for warmth!
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on 4 August 2009
I have worked in St Andrews for many years which is why I bought this book in the first place. Normally, I am not one for historical novels. I really enjoyed the story, and imagining St Andrews in the 16th Century was a thought provoking journey. I even looked for the tavern at the harbour today! The characters were were well developed and the various plots unfolded slowly throughout which kept me turning the pages. Although based in the 16th Century, it was a novel which was easy to read - almost modern apart from the time period. I recommend it very highly!
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on 13 August 2012
I had never read this author before so was not sure what to expect. It is set in St. Andrew's, Fife, in the late 16th century. The descriptions are detailed and much research into this period must have been done, including University practice and the legal system. I found at first I was taking a while getting into the story, possibly as there were several characters being introduced and because the era and its customs were unfamiliar.

However, once I had got into the book, and got to like the main character, Hew Cullan, I found it compelling reading. I would definitely recommend the book to those who like historical novels, whether crime or not, as the period (with all its warts!) is clearly evoked.
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on 29 July 2014
Despite a decent plot (involving murder, witchcraft, "unnatural" lusts and adultery), a novel (no pun intended) setting and likeable central characters, I had a real struggle finishing this book.

Firstly, presumably for the sake of providing a sense of authenticity, the author has the characters speaking in a kind of Shakespearean style language, the more so as the book progressed (or perhaps I only noticed it the further into the book I got). For me, this is completely unnecessary (we know when the story is set and a feel of authenticity is given by frequent reference to the lifestyles and worldviews of the characters in the story) and simply makes the book difficult to read.

Secondly, and most noticeably (and presumably as part of the search for authenticity), the author uses a lot of archaic Scottish words many of which are not in the Kindle dictionary, so you have to guess their meaning from the context. This makes the book even more difficult to read.

Lastly, apart from the specific criticisms raised above, I found the author's style heavy-handed. At times it felt to me like she thought she was writing great literature, using quite poetical language or imagery to describe settings or scenes, which actually made it quite difficult to picture what she was actually trying to describe.

An author's style is very much a matter of personal taste, but I struggled with this book despite it having a good storyline and despite the fact that I read quite a bit of historical crime fiction. I was torn between two stars (style) and three stars (content) but in the end content won over style.
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on 21 May 2011
Found this so gripping a read that I was able to ignore successfully a very noisy group of teenagers on the train up to London. Loads of fascinating historical detail included quite naturally with a fascinating look at how epilepsy was viewed and treated in 16th C Scotland.
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on 27 April 2016
It is 1579, and the boy-king James VI sits on the Scottish throne, unsure of his power and surrounded by scheming advisors. Destined to unite the crowns of Scotland and England in his royal person, how will he survive these turbulent years and become master of Britain?

Well, if you’re looking for courtly intrigue and the affairs of state writ large you should search elsewhere, because this novel’s all about the student lawyer Hew Cullan and his exploits in sixteenth century Scotland. This might not be a common setting in fiction, but Shirley McKay draws on her impressive knowledge of the period to bring the town of St. Andrews and its surroundings to life, giving the reader a compelling look into the lives of ordinary people of the sixteenth century.

Hue & Cry opens with Hew coming back home after six years spent studying the law in Paris to find Scotland at once familiar and yet new. This feeling of disconnection coincidentally mirrors that of the average reader, and at first the book is a confusing barrage of early modern Scots dialect, new characters, and antique social institutions. But it’s not long before you start to become familiar with the cast, their speech, and their motivations, and that’s when the book starts to draw you in.

The main character is Hew, a young man trained in the law but reluctant to choose it as his profession. His disgust at the cruel punishments of the day and his commitment to truth make him recoil from the thought of courtroom jousting with lives at stake (quite literally as it turns out), and also make him a protagonist sympathetic to modern sensibilities. Other characters are similarly well-drawn, from Hew’s at first unfamiliar and estranged family to the friends and enemies he makes in St. Andrews.

The plot unfolds organically and cleverly, with just enough time for the reader to acclimatise to Scotland before Hew finds himself dragged into an investigation into the murder of a young scholar that his friend Nicholas has been blamed for. The mystery of who killed thirteen year-old Alexander Strachan and why is slowly revealed as what at first appears to be an open-and-shut case becomes more and more complicated and far-reaching. Subplots abound, from industry and trade through romance, forbidden love, and corruption, to the power of the Kirk.

I’ve got to admit that Hue & Cry takes a bit of effort to get into, but once over that initial hurdle this is an incredibly rewarding book. The characters are believable and the central mystery builds to a satisfying conclusion. And for people who really want to know about James I and VI, the king himself makes an appearance towards the end of the novel, with hints that Hew Cullan will find his fate bound to his monarch’s in the later books of the series.

David

Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review.
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