The Bookseller Of Inverness (2022) by S G Maclean

Iain MacGillivray has had a difficult life. Six years ago, he was left for dead, his face brutally slashed, after the battle of Culloden. Now, in 1752, he is trying to live a quiet life in Inverness, keeping himself to himself and running a bookshop. But his life is not going to remain peaceful for long.

Scotland is no safe place for a Jacobite, but it is about to get a lot more dangerous. When a customer in his shop is found dead, stabbed in the neck, in the bookshop, there is a white cockade on the hilt of the weapon – the symbol of the Jacobites. But what was the man looking for in the shop, and did he find it? As Iain’s father, a spy for the exiled Jacobite monarch, returns, more bodies are found – but what do the victims have in common, and can Iain prevent the killer from completing their list?

The Bookseller of Inverness is the first book in a new series from S G Maclean. Her previous books involved Alexander Seaton in 1630s Aberdeen and the Damian Seeker books set during Cromwell’s regime (is that the right word when there isn’t a king?). Now we’re jumping forward a century and back to Scotland. I’ve read two of the Seeker books and enjoyed them. They both had whodunit plots but were primarily multi-layered historical thrillers with interesting characters and an astonishing eye for historical detail.

This one? Well, it’s got a whodunit plot but is primarily a multi-layered historical thriller with interesting characters and an astonishing eye for historical detail.

The historical detail could have been a real challenge, given that the 18th century basically didn’t happen according to my school curriculum. Even now, if you’d asked me who was on the British thrown during Culloden… hang on, I’ll check with Professor (promoted from Mrs) Puzzle Doctor. Balls, she got it right, but even she had to think about it… Basically, the Jacobites saw James Stuart as the rightful heir, but the Hanoverians who were on the throne disagreed. So the redcoats are in charge in Scotland but the Jacobites aren’t desperately happy about it, with the redcoats seen by some almost as an occupying force.

The story primarily revolves around a list of names that was hidden in a book and the efforts to locate the people on that list before they too get murdered. The story takes its time, building up various subplots that you are never quite sure will dovetail directly into the murder plot or not, as well as looking at Iain’s personal life or lack thereof. However the various strands are never dull and adds layer upon layer to the story, all of which builds to a very satisfying conclusion.

One thing that I would say is that Iain does spend a lot of time playing support to his father, Hector, rather than taking the lead in his own book – one of the most gripping sections involves Iain trying to retrieve a copy of the book from the heart of a Hanoverian stronghold by himself – but almost all of the deductions and revelations are left to his father. Here’s hoping Iain takes more of a lead in the action in the next book in the series, as I’ll definitely be reading it to see what happens next.

Many thanks to Quercus for the review copy. The Bookseller Of Inverness is out now in hardback and as an ebook.

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