The Redemption of Alexander Seaton

Written by Shona MacLean
Review by Sarah Cuthbertson

On a stormy night in 1626 in the Scottish town of Banff, the local apothecary’s assistant collapses in the street. Next morning he is found dead in Alexander Seaton’s house. Murder is suspected and when one of Alexander’s few friends in the town is arrested, Alexander sets out to clear him. But Alexander has a past. Having studied to be a minister of the Kirk, he had been denounced at his ordination for dishonouring the girl he would have married. Disgraced, he lost his faith and ended up a reluctant, embittered schoolmaster. Now, in the course of his investigations, Alexander must deal with characters good and bad: selfless, wise, devious and unscrupulous. He must contend with inflamed prejudices that lead to a witch hunt and accusations of treacherous Catholic plotting. And he must confront his own demons.

This engrossing, atmospheric novel is not only a satisfying, skilfully constructed mystery with richly developed characters. It’s also the vivid evocation of a particular time and place by an author whose uncle was Alistair MacLean and who is herself a historian specialising in 16th and 17th century Scotland. She has used her gifts to the full to create a truly memorable and exciting read.