I’ve just finished reading the latest book by Shona MacLean and I am glad to see that she’s back on form. MacLean’s first book The Redemption of Alexander Seaton was in my opinion the best historical thriller of 2009. Set in seventeenth century Scotland, the plot centred on the character of Alexander Seaton, a disgraced minister, embarking on a journey around the country to avenge his friend’s murder. The author’s follow-up book moved the action to northern Ireland and she seemed less sure of her setting. In the Crucible of Secrets the action moves back to Scotland, to the university town of Aberdeen, and the historical landscape once more comes alive.
The book has everything I would expect from a MacLean novel – good historical detail, clear prose and a complex plot. MacLean has a PhD in Scottish history and her knowledge of the period is clearly excellent. I raced to the finish, always a good sign in a crime novel. I remember the author telling Harrogate Crime Festival that she had numerous rejections for her first book before she eventually found a publisher. She is an example to all aspiring authors of how important it is to keep going – she was eventually taken up by the excellent Quercus.