Review: S G MacLean – The Devil’s Recruit

S G MacLeanThe Devil’s Recruit is the fourth book in the series by Shona (now S G) MacLean featuring the disgraced trainee minister Alexander Seaton. The series has been a bit of a mixed bunch. The excellent first novel, The Redemption of Alexander Seaton, introduced us to the character of Seaton in his native Banff but a trip to Ulster to help his maternal family in book two was less successful. However, the series seems to be back on form and this latest book a worthy addition to the series.

It is now 1635 and the religious conflict in the Holy Roman Empire between Protestants and Catholics, which became known as the Thirty Years War, is being played out across Europe. Many recruits are coming from the British Isles, taking arms on both sides, but Scotland in particular is providing manpower in support of the Scottish princess, Elizabeth of Bohemia. Outside Aberdeen, a recruiting ship is sitting in the harbour casting a shadow over the town. When the son of a Highland Chief, who was Seaton’s student, disappears, it seems that dark forces are at work and that the religious wars have a resonance the extends to the Scottish city.

I’m always interested in historical crime novels with a religious theme. Scottish religious history isn’t something that I know that much about and I was surprised to read about the strong recusant links that existed at that time. MacLean’s books have previously had a strong Protestant feel and Alexander Seaton’s disgust when he stumbles in on a Catholic Mass conveys itself to the reader. The murder plot is fairly complex. Although the missing student seems to the central mystery, in fact there are a number of malevolent forces operating the city which provides a multi-layered and satisfying read.

Alexander Seaton has always been a complex character. In the second book in the series, A Game of SorrowsSeaton has a brief affair that comes back to haunt him in this book. However, his ongoing obsession with his childhood sweetheart has cataclysmic consequences  and it is clear at the end that the series is going to move in a different direction.

I’m sure that fans of MacLean will enjoy The Devil’s Recruit as will those who like solid historical mysteries. I don’t think any of the series has matched the first book for depth and subtlety but I enjoyed the insight into Scottish Catholic history.

Thanks to Quercus for my review copy.

22 thoughts on “Review: S G MacLean – The Devil’s Recruit

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – I like this series very much and I’ve been wondering what this fourth would be like. It does sound as though it’s got some fascinating historical information so for that alone I’ll probably enjoy it. And I do like the Alexander Seaton character.


    1. Hi Margot – yes I have noticed that you read this series too. I think you’ll like the new book as it has a slightly different feel to the previous ones.


            1. It might be that Ellis Peters isn’t for you if you didn’t like book1. Try ‘The Virgin in the Ice’. It’s early in the series and I think that’s as good as any of them. Fingers crossed!


  2. A new author and series for me. Not exactly my favorite time period, but I have been branching out in the last couple of years. The religious theme sounds interesting. I will definitely put the first one on my list of books to find and read someday. Doesn’t look easy to find here, though.


    1. I don’t thinks she is that well known in the States Tracy although Margot Kinberg reads her so I presume she does have a publisher. The first book is definitely worth seeking out.


  3. kathy d.

    If I could get out from under the TBR pile, I’d give this a try, but between the library, bargain (can’t resist) purchases and kind gifts, I’m over the top with books. If I could just read 24/7, not sleep or do anything else, it would be fine with me. Where can we apply for more hours in a day?


  4. Pingback: The Best of March’s Reading | crimepieces

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