The Bookseller of Inverness by S. G. Maclean #BookReview

A gripping historical thriller set in Inverness in the wake of the 1746 battle of Culloden from twice CWA award-winning author S. G. MacLean. Perfect for fans of C. J. Sansom and Andrew Taylor.

After Culloden, Iain MacGillivray was left for dead on Drumossie Moor. Wounded, his face brutally slashed, he survived only by pretending to be dead as the Redcoats patrolled the corpses of his Jacobite comrades.

Six years later, with the clan chiefs routed and the Highlands subsumed into the British state, Iain lives a quiet life, working as a bookseller in Inverness. One day, after helping several of his regular customers, he notices a stranger lurking in the upper gallery of his shop, poring over his collection. But the man refuses to say what he’s searching for and only leaves when Iain closes for the night.

The next morning Iain opens up shop and finds the stranger dead, his throat cut, and the murder weapon laid out in front of him – a sword with a white cockade on its hilt, the emblem of the Jacobites. With no sign of the killer, Iain wonders whether the stranger discovered what he was looking for – and whether he paid for it with his life. He soon finds himself embroiled in a web of deceit and a series of old scores to be settled in the ashes of war.

My Review

This vibrant tale of the residents of Inverness six years after the tragedy of the nearby Battle of Culloden, centres on former Jacobite, Iain MacGillivray, now running a popular bookshop. Hiding his scars behind his hair he endeavours to conduct a quiet life, after returning from exile in Virginia. Iain still lives with his grandmother Mairi Farqharson, one of the three Grande Dames who have been active in the cause of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Stewart family for over 30 years, since his mother ran away, and his father escaped to France.

His peace is disturbed by a scruffy stranger searching through the books he had obtained from the house of “the Old Fox,” an executed Jacobite Lord. When this stranger is discovered murdered in the bookshop during the night, Iain is troubled to find the dirk bears a white cockade of the ’45 Rebellion. From then on, the story gains pace as Iain puts himself into danger seeking out a missing book which may name those of his contemporaries who are traitors to the cause.

There are several other engaging characters including Ishbel MacLeod, who had recently returned from indenture as a servant in America, accompanied by a charming rascal, young Tormod, a half-caste boy she cares for. Others in the town are a mixture of Hanoverian supporters of King George and former Jacobites. The presence of many English soldiers is unnerving, some like Major Thornlie, polite and correct in his manner and others like Captain Dunne violent and uncouth.

I enjoyed reading descriptions of the surrounding countryside, where I have family connections, and there is an increasing air of tension as old resentments surface and revenge is enacted. There are two questions to be answered. Who is the murderer, and can Iain find the other traitors first? Certainly, he realises he can no longer leave the past behind and he finally gains real understanding of his charismatic father, Hector.

There are several dour Scots among the townsfolk, but Iain’s true nature is revealed in his rebellious singing at the Assembly dance. Unsure whom he can trust with the help of true friends he is finally able to start living again. A superb novel, based on the uneasy situation in 1750s Scotland which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

I was kindly given a copy of this book by the publisher which has not influenced my review.

The Bookseller of Inverness on Amazon UK


Published by lizannelloyd

Love history, reading, researching and writing. Articles published in My Family History and other genealogy magazines.

5 thoughts on “The Bookseller of Inverness by S. G. Maclean #BookReview

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