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The Redemption of Alexander Seaton (Alexander Seaton #1)

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  455 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
Is the young man merely drunk or does his tottering walk suggest something more sinister? When he collapses in front of two sisters on that dark, wet night, they guess rightly that he's been murdered by poisoning. So begins this tale set in the town of Banff, Scotland in the 1620s.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Quercus Books (first published 2008)
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An excellent beginning...

A storm is raging in Banff in the north-east of Scotland as Alexander Seaton makes his way home from the inn so, when he sees a man staggering in the street, Alexander assumes he is the worse for drink and hurries on by to get out of the rain. When the man's dead body is found the next day in the schoolroom where Alexander teaches, his feelings of guilt are compounded when his friend Charles Thom is arrested for the murder. Convinced of Charles' innocence, Alexander sets
Elizabeth Moffat
This is the first book in the Alexander Seaton series by British author Shona MacLean, a tale of 17th century Scotland, full of intrigue, mystery and religious fervour. Our main character Alexander is a school master although he would dearly love to be a minister, and was prevented from achieving this by a mistake made when he fell for the “wrong woman.” Things kick off for Alexander when a man whom he knows is found murdered by poisoning in his school room. The previous night, he had seen this ...more
I was going to hold back with reviewing this book until after the Book Discussion group had, well, discussed it. But as some of us have already rated and posted, I thought I would do the same.

I started off with huge optimism; my sort of novel - good time, setting and premise for a captivating read. By the time I was half way through I wished all the characters would be swept away never to be seen again. The 'hero' was pious, self-pitying and in need of a good slapping. Some had identical surname
P.D.R. Lindsay
Feb 25, 2013 P.D.R. Lindsay rated it it was amazing
'The Redemption of Alexander Seaton’
by Shona MacLean. Quercus, 2008, paperback: 408 pages, ISBN: 978-1- 84724-791-9

Shona MacLean’s novel beat mine in the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger competition a few years ago. When her novel was published, a couple of years later, and it was Quercus publishing her, who had turned me down too, well, I had to read it to see what made her novel so instantly acceptable to the Lords and Masters of traditional publishing. She’d chosen to write about 17th C
THE REDEMPTION OF ALEXANDER SEATON (Hist. Mys-Alexander Seaton-Scotland-1626) - Ex
MacLean, Shona – 1st book
Quercus, 2008, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9781847245052

First Sentence: The younger of the two shires rifled the man’s pockets with expert fingers.

Young Alexander Seaton, disallowed from becoming a minister, is now a teacher in his town of Banff, Scotland. He sees a man who staggers and falls on the street during a dark, wet night, but doesn’t stop to help.

With morning comes the revelation tha
Mar 08, 2013 Ruth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-historical
c2008: FWFTB: Banff, embittered, murder, Catholic, witch. This book is exquisitely written. The period seems to have been effortlessly invoked and the dialogue in tune with the time and mores of the 17th C. I did not guess the murderer! There is some lovely humorous one-liners which stops the novel from sinking into being 'depressing' "He was the eyes and ears of Baillie Buchan who, by some oversight on the part of Beelzebub, could not be in two places at once." Some knowledge of the particular ...more
Sarah Knowler
Jan 04, 2013 Sarah Knowler rated it really liked it
This is the book that first pulled me away from Wolf Hall - I know, amazing - but then sent me back to it with renewed enthusiasm. Before I reached the point of trailing WH around with me like a comfort blanket (I'm there now), I felt lazy one day and picked this up rather than walk upstairs. Very soon Alexander Seaton had grabbed me. I found myself wondering about him while not reading. The plot and setting reminded me of the books I loved as a child: Kidnapped, Moonfleet, Lorna Doone. It remin ...more
Diana Sandberg
Sep 21, 2009 Diana Sandberg rated it really liked it
Very good. Setting – Banff, Scotland, 1626. Our protagonist is a young man with a deeply troubling past. He is working as a schoolmaster but we soon find out he was almost made a minister of The Kirk until something terrible happened. He is, to some extent, pulled from his despair by the shocking death of a young relative of the provost of the town and the arrest of one of his own few friends for the deed. This is a tale well told. I enjoyed the setting and the characters and did not guess the m ...more
Naomi Mason
Jan 19, 2017 Naomi Mason rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!
it's not without flaws; it took a while to get going, the story stumbled at times and I got a bit confused at the town notables to begin with as they all seemed indistinct of each other.
Once it got going however, I was hooked. From the dark and stormy night setting, to the clamouring fear of witchcraft, the murder at the heart of the story and the potential treason lurking in the shadows. This book really did pack it all in there!
The biggest draw for me though was the setting.
Apr 30, 2010 kingshearte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 30, 2015 Sandra rated it it was amazing
The Redemption of Alexander Seaton does exactly what the title says, it leads us through the redemption of someone who looked set for a future as a minister until they were denied this future. The reason for this denial is not explained until a good way through the book but we first meet Alexander as a grammar school teacher in Banff in 1626, deeply ashamed at his conduct and despondent at his lack of future now he will no longer be a minister, he spends his days teaching and his nights mostly w ...more
There was much to enjoy about this mystery, I especially liked the main character. Alexander Seaton is a man ashamed of his misdeeds and still harshly judged by his disgrace. In the tight knit Scottish community where he is a school master he has very few friends. The one person he counts closest to him, Charles Thom, has been arrested and charged with murder. The corpse of the apothecary's apprentice, Patrick Davidson, was found in a classroom in Alexander's house. Thom's romantic feelings for ...more
The Redemption of Alexander Seaton by Shona Maclean;
1626, Banff Scotland, no this isn’t a kiltfest. There is not one ‘verra or d’ye ken.” Possibly because the writer is a Scotswoman and you never hear your own accented speech. What you have here is a very well written mystery, set in a time which to me is the bleakest of all periods in western civilization. The Stuarts were not a popular dynasty, the Protestant Reformation was only a couple of generations old and Europe was in turmoil. Plague an
Alan Hughes
Is the young man simply drunk or does his staggering walk suggest something more sinister? When he collapses in front of the two sisters on that dark, wet night, the women guess rightly that he's been poisoned. So begins this gripping tale set in the town of Banff, Scotland in the 1620s. The body of the victim, the apothecary's apprentice, is found in the house of Alexander Seaton a fallen minister, the discovery of whose clandestine love affair has left him disgraced and deprived him of his voc ...more
May 20, 2014 Val rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: discuss-it
It took me some time to get into this book, although I enjoyed it very much. I like historical mysteries when they feel right for the setting and in this one the period detail is probably spot-on, it is certainly consistent. The language seems more Victorian than Jacobean, but an old fashioned style suits the narration and there were not too many unfamiliar Scottish words. Shona Maclean may have been trying to write like Robert Louis Stevenson (or Walter Scott) and not at all like Alastair Macle ...more
Feb 14, 2011 Esoldra rated it really liked it
The Redemption of Alexander Seaton was a fantastic read. There is a great deal of historical atmosphere in the book yet it still retains the ability to work as a good thriller. There are elements of murder, witchcraft, espionage, religious persecution and a very clear depiction of a 17th Century strict religious town. In that way it did remind me a little in descriptions of Hawthorne's A Scarlet Letter, though this time with a male protagonist.
Alexander Seaton at 26 was a great deal younger a c
Jan 03, 2016 Teresa rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I found this book by chance (the familiar surname caught my eye) in a charity shop in Inverness, Scotland, last fall where we were visiting. I picked it up because I love a good historical mystery. This was a very satisfying book, packed with a tangible sense of 17th century Scotland in the wake of changes set in motion by John Knox and the Reformation, a time when Catholicism and witchcraft may have been feared equally, yet practices of each were still deeply entrenched amidst new restrictions ...more
Deborah Swift
May 14, 2011 Deborah Swift rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dark, grisly,stuffed full of historical detail and the dour dialogue of 17th century Scotland, this is a thriller to read on a cold night with the wind howling outside and rain lashing at the windows.

Alexander Seaton, a failed minister with a past, stumbles upon a murder. In pursuit of the killer and his own redemption he embarks upon a series of travels which take him through the terrors of the witch-hunt, the then-current obsession with Papists, and an encounter with his own demons.

Richly atmo
Jul 13, 2010 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me ages to get into this book but I couldn't work out if that was my fault or the book's. Having restarted the book from scratch whilst on holiday it turned out to be me not giving it the attention it deserves! I think this book needs to be read in few sittings otherwise it's easy to lose momentum. However it's a brilliantly written book with good characterisation and very evocative of 17th century Scotland. The story itself is a captivating murder mystery but the true heart of the book ...more
Dec 02, 2011 Wilf rated it really liked it
With so many historical mysteries about at the moment, many jumping on the Shardlake bandwagon, it is refreshing to find something within this genre which still has some originality. This is a well written, nicely paced story and I particularly liked the gradual build up of tension and menacing atmosphere as the Scottish town of Banff is gripped by witch hunts. Curiously the central character (and narrator) is a tad on the dull side, but there's some memorable and well drawn supporting figures. ...more
Oct 27, 2016 Sam rated it liked it
Enjoyable historical mystery. A little simple perhaps, in prose and how it unfolds; I wouldn't say it hooked me like a Wallander or Hole, but I was always interested and engaged. The religious angle adds some good theological subtext and it just about manages to stick the landing during the reveal (though there is some very clunky explanation around why several people didn't realise something earlier). The eventual villain is also a little denied his cackling admission/tragic downfall/public flo ...more
Kulaprabha Marlene
May 27, 2013 Kulaprabha Marlene rated it really liked it
It took me a couple of attempts to get going with this book but it was worth the effort and then I couldn't put it down. It works very well as a murder mystery. But it is much more than that and has left me looking for a good book about 17th century Scottish history. I was struck when one character, despite the religious restrictions imposed by Calvinism, passionately spoke about the Kirk being the freedom and identity of the Scottish people and without it they would be lost. You don't hear the ...more
David Robertson
Oct 06, 2012 David Robertson rated it really liked it
When I began this book I was not expecting much - however it was a pleasant surprise. It is beautifully written, well paced, and the sense of history and place (17th Century North East Scotland) is palpable. If Shona Maclean has any other books I will certainly be buying them. I had thought she was going to descend into the usual stereotypes of Scottish Calvinists, but she largely manages to avoid that and instead comes across with, in my view, a more realistic and nuanced approach. Highly recom ...more
Nov 18, 2013 Susan rated it liked it
It took a while to get into this novel, then I became hooked for parts of it while other parts I felt rambled on a bit. The plot line was very good, but I just felt it was too over-descriptive a lot of the time. I kind of wish I had been reading it as an 'outsider', not as someone who lives near the area where the book was set. I am about to give a copy of this title to an Australian friend as a gift, so it'll be interesting to see what she makes of it.
Update III - I've finished, I know who did it, the reasons were so mundane that I didn't care and I wish everyone had been poisoned.

Update II - I really, really do not care now if Seaton is redeemed or not. Whatever happens to him, I pray to God it's fast as I'm losing the will to read.

WAYYY too much narrative. Stop describing everything and everyone in such detail, woman, and give me some dialog for pity's sake.
Dec 15, 2012 Johanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some really interesting elements: isolated communities, mobs, witch hunts and calvinist protestants. The plot seemed more like a vehicle for a look at life in a severely protestant community before the enlightenment (not anywhere for a single woman to want to be!) rather than the central element of the book. Occasionally slow and debateably far fetched plot too but interesting and I'll keep an eye out for another of these.
Banff, Scotland in the 1620s. A young man walks unsteadily through the streets. Is he just drunk or is there something more sinister happening? When he collapses in front of two sisters on that dark, wet night, the women guess that he's been poisoned. His body is discovered in the house of Alexander Seaton - a fallen minister, the discovery of whose clandestine love affair has left him disgraced. Why was the body in Seaton's house? And why would anyone want to murder this likeable young man?
Margaret Bramlett
Yea! I have found another historical mystery series to enjoy. This one set in 17 century Scotland. Shona MacLean's Ph.D in Scottish history is evident in this picture of village life of the period. I finished this 1st book in the series about 3 pm and am already 15 pages into the second book an hour later. Thanks to my daughter, Lizz, for suggesting this series to me. She who loves all things pertaining to Scotland picked a winner.
Lee Dunning
Jun 07, 2012 Lee Dunning rated it really liked it

This book has a great feel to it and I love the characterisations. I enjoyed getting into Alexander's mind and seeing his internal struggles.
The plot is interesting enough but it does sort of whimper out rather that go,out with a bang. When you find out what went on you are not particularly shocked and I didn't care that much.
The book was really all about Alexander and the setting he is in. Looking forward to reading more about him
May 07, 2013 Katharine rated it really liked it
I was very pleasantly surprised by this one and found it a much more gripping read than I'd anticipated. The author does an excellent job of evoking the atmosphere of a Scottish town in 1626 where religion was at the forefront of everyone's minds and people's lives were heavily circumscribed by their beliefs. The mystery is suitably baffling but it's the unusual historical setting that will stick with me.
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Aka: S.G.MacLean

I was born in Inverness and brought up in the Highlands where my parents were hoteliers. I went to school in Dingwall. I have an M.A. and Ph. D in History from the University of Aberdeen. I am maried with four children and currently living in Banff on the Moray coast.

About writer's work:
I write historical crime fiction, and am currently working on my third book featuring
More about Shona MacLean...

Other Books in the Series

Alexander Seaton (4 books)
  • A Game of Sorrows (Alexander Seaton, #2)
  • Crucible of Secrets (Alexander Seaton, #3)
  • The Devil's Recruit (Alexander Seaton  #4)

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