When his friend is accused of the apprentice's murder, Alexander sets out to solve the crime and clear his friend's name.
©2009 Shona MacLean; (P)2009 Oakhill Publishing Ltd
"Pacy and literate,this is an accomplished and thought-provoking debut." (The Guardian)
"For those who like their historical novels densely packed with fact,this will appeal." (Scotland on Sunday)
This is the first review I've written, of the most surprising audio book I've yet read. Surprising in many ways: in the quality of both the writing and the reading, both previously unknown to me; in the layer on layer of complexity in the story; and in the way that this is handled so beautifully by author and reader.
Set in 17th century Scotland, the story illustrates a contrast between narrow religious bigotry and a wide, stimulating world of new ideas and discoveries. The story none the less portrays religion as pervasive, and as a part of the texture of everyday life in this time and place, and the varieties of forms of belief are displayed in a way which made them both interesting and credible to this non-religious reader.
So far, this review makes the book sound solemn and overly serious. Not at all. It's a cracking story, multi-layered, with twists and turns which always spring directly from the plot, so they develop naturally from the story lines. Tolerance jostles intolerance, science confronts belief in witchcraft, and the outcomes are uncertain. This is not a book of easy answers, but a novel of interesting questions, and great fun.
The main character is himself complicated, a man deeply affected by a humiliating episode in his recent past, and by a turn of events in his life which has left him deeply confused and unsure of himself. At times pessimistic, but always stubbornly moving forwards none-the-less, Alexander Seaton travels uncertainly towards his redemption. The mystery at the heart of the story is progressively uncovered, as the supporting cast of characters are developed, and the parts they play, or have played in the commission and in the uncovering of crime are gradually revealed.
Great stuff. Highly recommended.
Set in the early years of James First's (sixth of Scotland) reign the author successfully creates the atmosphere of Scotland in that era of dour and self-righteous Protestantism and the lack of sympathy for "sinners". It was a time when elderly women had to be wary of being accused of witch-craft on the flimsiest of grounds. Fears abounded of a foreign invasion to re-establish the Catholic faith. Against this back-drop a story unfolds of a series of unexplained deaths in a village in Banff in North-East Scotland that sets off a whirlwind of consequences. It's a pacy narrative that kept me listening. The Scottish actor, Crawford Logan, does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life and, to my Scottish ear, he got the accents of the area just right: not an easy task.
This was a rare treat - I was totally engrossed in this story; it had everything: rounded characters, historical detail and a gripping story. I was so sad when it ended - I envy antone who is about to begin listening to this book.
I bought this as it was highly recommended by Audible and I wasn't disappointed. Not the kind of book I would normally select, but I am now eager to read the other two books Shona MacLean has written featuring Alexander Seaton. I do hope they will become available on Audible soon. As for the narration - Crawford Logan has a wonderful voice and his depiction of the characters is excellent. I would give him a 5+ rating!
I had never heard of this author before joining Audible but decided to risk following the recommendations of others who had purchased this audio book and what a treat it has been to listen to it. Evocative of the era and the location; fascinating and unusual story line; very well read by an actor whose voice is easy to listen to and never becomes monotonous..... I could go on. Suffice it to say that I can't wait to listen to the next book. Thank you.
Just loved this from start to finish. A very unusual tale of murder.mystery and bigotry so beautifully written that I'm sure you'll find yourself totally drawn in to the dark atmosphere of those times. While I do agree with a previous reviewer that this can be a little dark and depressing, it is I think, only a reflection of that point in history and the very nature of the story being told....not forgetting the author's prowess in creating such a powerful atmosphere. It also has a fairly warm and satisfying ending too. My lasting impression of this novel was how totally I found myself being transported and engrossed by it. Definitely one of my best buys!
I am not normally fond of historical novels and bought this because it had good reviews and sounded intriguing. I rarely award five stars for anything, but enjoyed this hugely. The excellent research conveys a fascinating picture of the period, the story line is unusual, the narration mesmerising - I did not want it to end.
Alexander Seaton is a flawed but compelling and attractive character, but the characterisation in general is excellent, with surprising twists to reveal the reality of some as very different from their appearance. Sympathy is eventually evoked for the most unlikely candidates as their story is revealed.
Crawford Logan's voice is ideally suited to the narrative, very clear but with a lovely Scottish burr - I could have listened to him for hours and his reading really illuminated the story.
I listen to my audiobooks while doing housework (not easy for me as I am disabled) and found myself looking for more chores so that I couldn't go on listening!
An excellent book, superbly read. I recommend it unreservedly.
Book geek, editor and proof-reader. Gaelic poetry-lover.
Well-rounded characters, captivating story, beautiful prose. The turns in the story kept me listening long after I should have gone to sleep!
This story is full of historical information about 17th century Scotland - social, cultural and religious - I loved it and will definitely be looking for more from this author.
This is gripping story set in a dour, Presbyterian Scottish town in the 17th century. The narration in particular is outstanding and really brings the various characters to life. As others have commented, this isn't a clichéd Scottish story, but one that really understands the character of the time, the tensions and the nature of post-reformation Presbyterian culture.
The pace of the story varies and there are a couple of parts that dragged a little. By the time I got to the last few chapters, I was impatient to find out who-dunnit and why.
As a big fan of this type of mystery story, I was delighted with this book. At about 1 hour from the end of the book I still had absolutely no idea of who had done it. That can't be said about many books.
The thing that I did not like about it was the very strong scottish accent that Crawford Logan had for some charaters, as well as some arcaic scottish vocabulary that Shona MacLean used, to the point that I really did not understand what was being said amd missed many dialogs.
I thought the book was very interesting! Good mystery and it definitely kept me guessing, which is pretty rare for me. I see a lot of other reviews didn't like the narrator but I thought he was excellent, I didn't mind the accent or the Scottish terms. I would definitely recommend this and I will be buying the sequels.
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