by S. G. MacLean
Shona MacLean brilliantly evokes the fear and suspicion of the uneasy era that followed the execution of the King, Charles Stuart.
In her capable hands, London itself becomes a character in the novel. Scarred by the civil war, the capital is a brooding, uneasy warren of intrigue and deception, seething with spies, soldiers, exiles and assassins. It’s a place where no-one really knows the business or allegiance of their neighbours, their guests or their lovers. Maclean takes us on a whirlwind tour of the seedy underbelly of the capital and the whispering corridors of the palaces in pursuit of the killer.
It took a little while for Maclean to introduce the half dozen or so characters who were all credible suspects in the murder of John Winter, but it was worth the wait for the action to start. Once Seeker was on the trail of the murderer, I was hooked. Her enigmatic protagonist is a delight, as were all of the characters - especially the women. Each one of the women sought freedom of some kind, and none of them passively accepted their allotted role as victims of the brutal, hypocritical and puritanical Commonwealth.
Maclean’s prose is also a delight. She writes confidently and there were some real literary gems scattered throughout the novel that made me gasp with their brilliance. But the author never sacrificed the pace to her prose, and was firmly focused on her twisting plot and sub-plots.
Maclean is a worthy recipient of the Crime Writer Association’s 2015 Endeavor Award for historical crime fiction. I thoroughly recommend this novel.