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MacLean, Shona - 'A Game of Sorrows'
Paperback: 352 pages (Mar. 2010) Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc ISBN: 1849161658

In this second novel from Shona McLean we return to 17th Century Aberdeen and Alexander Seaton. Alexander is happily settled in the university town, but his peace is shattered by the arrival of a stranger. It's his cousin Sean from Ireland who has come to plead for Alexander's help. The family back in Ireland have been placed under a poet's curse, and some of it has begun to come true. Sean needs Alexander to return to Ireland with him to help break the curse. Reluctantly Alexander goes only to find himself amongst a family torn apart by secrets and long-held resentments. His life and freedom are threatened as he is confronted with murder even within his own family.

I had rather mixed feelings about this novel. As a story it stands up well enough, and enough of the historical backdrop is explained to enable even me, completely ignorant of Irish history of this period, to understand the background. As a historical novel then it passes muster, in that it is set in an interesting period of turmoil and it seems to have period detail aplenty, however I felt it lacked the power of the previous book. I didn't feel that I got as rich and full a picture of Carrickfergus or Coleraine as I did in the previous book of Banff. This was a story that could have taken place just about anywhere and I didn't get a real feel of Ireland from it.

That said it was still an interesting read. It was peopled with good solid characters for the most part and the plot was intricate and involving.

The character of Alexander grows through the story as he learns more about where he came from and who he really is, but I was beginning to wish that he would learn a bit quicker and be a little less quick to judge people by their religion. However, I get the feeling that he's still at the start of his journey of discovery and there is doubtless more to come from him. I'd rather he did his discovering a bit closer to home though, a bit less gallivanting and a greater sense of place next time would be appreciated.

Pat Austin, England
March 2010

Pat blogs at
Mysterious Yarns.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 29/04/2010 19:07