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MacLean, S G - 'The Devil's Recruit'
Hardback: 368 pages (Mar. 2013) Publisher: Quercus ISBN: 1849163170

This is the fourth book in the Alexander Seaton series by S G MacLean. The author lives in Scotland and studied sixteenth and seventeeth century Scottish history at Aberdeen University. This book is set in the winter of 1635 in Aberdeen and has as its background the thirty years war (1618-48) during which the Scots fought both on the Catholic side as well as with the Protestants. This is brought alive by the author's knowledge of the period and of the town.

There is a recruiting ship in the harbour and Seaton who is currently a senior master with Marischal college, but is soon to take up the position of Minister of the East Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen, is anxious that none of the pupils are recruited.

He and another master stop Seoras MacKay and his stepbrother Hugh Gunn from signing up with Lieutenant Ormiston and his men. In the morning however Seoras is missing and Hugh is badly injured and cannot speak nor remember anything. Before a search can be made Seoras's father, a highland chief arrives with his soldiers and begins a search of the town.

A wealthy local, George Jameson, is undertaking a project of reclaiming an old garden and redesigning to include a pavilion and a pond. He has recruited two French gardeners, who come recommended by Lady Rothiemay. She, as well as an old protagonist of Alexander's - Isabella Irvine - are staying with a local dignitary.

Who is the mysterious recruiting sergeant who shows an interest in Alexander and his family? What has happened to Seoras? Who is the young woman found hanging in the garden by the pond?

It is not necessary to read the books in order, but I think it would help; it took sometime before I was aware of some of the background. Alexander came across initially as being a typical church minister, very staid and dour. You soon realise however that he has led an interesting life! He had to leave his birthplace in disgrace. He later married a servant girl Sarah, who had been made pregnant by her master and they now have three children, the eldest boy Zander and a girl and boy from their marriage. There are more skeletons in Alexander's closet that are revealed during the book.

This is a good series and I would recommend this well written book for its historical and character detail.

Geoff Jones, England
March 2013

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 24/03/2013 10:04