Top positive review
16 people found this helpful
Intriguing, atmospheric mystery set in 17C Scotland
on 5 April 2014
I've been burned one too many times with great reviews on Amazon of new authors only to find that they are at best inflated, at worst complete rubbish, that I am wary these days and spend as much time reviewing the reviews as I do the books themselves. S G MacLean was definitely worth the gamble. This is a great read, so much so that I have bought the entire series and am currently reading the second book.
Initially, it took me a while to get into this book and there was a moment when I almost gave up but I am very glad that I didn't and went on to discover the joys of some seriously good writing. Set in a period of history that I am not very familiar with, I was intrigued, fascinated and at times horrified by the attitudes of the time with their anti-Catholic sentiments, the witch-hunts, superstitions and the appalling aftermath that results when these are mixed with small-town gossip, pettiness, jealousies and ignorance.
Alexander lives his life trying to keep as low a profile as possible after having fallen at the last hurdle in his desire to become a minister of the Kirk. We learn of his past as he tries to help his friend, accused of murder, prove his innocence. Alexander is a flawed young man but very likeable and honourable. His heart and intentions are definitely in the right place but he is being manipulated by forces that he has no knowledge of. The characters are all very well developed, even those with only a small part to play in the overall story (like the two prostitute sisters) and the writing itself is very atmospheric and full of historical detail which I greatly enjoyed. The unravelling of the murder of the apothecary's assistant takes Alexander on a journey both personal and literal with forays to Aberdeen, the Castle of Straloch and to the cave of the Wise Woman who knows details of his past that are confounding to him. Whilst he is searching for answers to clear his friend, he is also trying to come to terms with his past and find peace for his future The various strands of Alexander's story are well-woven and hugely entertaining. Definitely a debut worth every one of the five stars!