The Bookseller of Inverness by S.G. MacLean is a thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing historical thriller set in Inverness in the years shortly after the Battle of Culloden.
In Inverness, Iain MacGillivray, a survivor of Culloden, is living a quiet life as a bookseller, until a stranger appears in his shop, looking for a particular book although he refuses to say the title. The next morning Iain finds the customer with his throat cut and a Jacobite sword and a white flower next to the corpse. What follows is a frantic hunt for the coded book that will name the remaining traitors of the Jacobite movement – and a growing list of victims. Iain’s father, long-thought to have been killed, appears and whisks Iain along on an exciting search for the book while trying to avoid capture by the English Redcoats.
I utterly enjoyed this book. The characters are wonderfully created, especially a grumpy drunkard bookbinder and the rascal boy who plays the role of sneaky messenger to perfection. The occasional use of language from the time, detailed descriptions of the houses, the food, and street-life added to the overall historical effect. The occasional boat rides and treks through the Highlands were realistic and tension-filled. The plot is well-paced keeping the reader enthused and intrigued and guessing in equal measures. Politics and nascent revolutions are a dangerous and complex business and keeping up with the changing loyalties is near-impossible. That’s what this story is about and the author captures the dynamism of the time well.