Set in 1631, we are introduced to the University life of Aberdeen and to Alexander Seaton, regent of the Marischal College, a man greatly respected by his peers, who finds himself embroiled in mystery and intrigue when friend and college librarian, Robert Sim is found murdered.
Alexander is convinced that Robert knew something that caused him to killed, something he had discovered amongst a delivery of old books gifted to the college. In the course of his investigations into Robert’s murder, Alexander uncovers secrets amongst people of the town, secrets that involve alchemy, hermetics, and ultimately the secrets and rituals of the stonemason’s society. Is it these that have led to the murder of not just Robert but an apparently innocent, young weaver? Or is there more to it?
This was an intriguing book to read. The descriptions of Aberdeen and the way of life of a 17th century university town were so carefully detailed as to evoke a clear picture in the reader’s mind. The character’s sketched so cleverly it felt like you knew them. The plot was unhurried but told in such a gripping way that drew me in and, kept me enthralled, with the details of the Stonemason’s rituals and mysteries. We are also given details of Alexander’s private life that obviously follow the threads of previous novels but are easily picked up and help to bring his character to life. It is very cleverly written, leading the reader around and away from the real murderer but all the while the subtle hints are there if you care to look for them.
I found it a very interesting and different take on 17th century life, more than once I thought I had discovered the real murderer and was at last convinced I had it right – I didn’t. I particularly enjoyed the details of the Stonemason’s lodge – to this day they still keep their intrigue and that’s what piques our attention. Combined with brilliant writing and accurate knowledge of that time, it couldn’t help but be an amazing read. I’m giving it 4 stars.
Thanks to Quercus for providing a copy to review and to Lisa from the ReadItSwapIt forums for reviewing it for me.