AFTER making her name with a series of books about Alexander Seaton, a former minister turned teacher who has a habit of getting caught up in murder and intrigue in early 17th century Scotland, Inverness-born author Shona MacLean moves on a couple of decades and a few hundred miles south for the first in a new series.
At its centre is the eponymous Damien Seeker, a veteran of the Civil War and now a trusted agent of Cromwell’s secret police in the Lord Protector’s dictatorship. An enigma whose own past is shrouded in mystery, even his oh-so-appropriate name is unlikely to be the one he was born with, he is a man so physically imposing that he might well be an ancestor of Lee Child’s contemporary tough guy Jack Reacher.
When a fellow veteran of Cromwell’s army is murdered, it is Seeker who is sent to track down his killer, whoever it might be — the widow whose loyalty still lies with the exiled Stuarts, a pair of Scotsmen with their own reasons for being in the English capital or the regulars at one of the city’s first coffee houses where social barriers are cast aside as men of all walks of life indulge in conversation and caffeine.
As a trained historian, MacLean achieves the balance of immersing her readers in a time and place without ever making them feel that they are being battered over the head by research, while the central mystery is satisfying and plausibly plotted. There is also a sword fight described with all the clinical economy of one of Seeker’s rapier thrusts than serves as a coda to her Seaton series.
Already a prize-winner, having collected the prestigious Crime Writers Association History Dagger, this is a new series that has got off to a galloping start.