A GAME OF SORROWS is the second in a series of historical crime mysteries featuring Alexander Seaton. It is 1628, and Seaton’s happily settled life as a university teacher in Aberdeen is shattered by the arrival in town of a stranger carrying a plea for help from his dead mother’s family in Ireland. The family has been placed under a poet’s curse, elements of which have begun to come true. Reluctantly answering the call, Alexander finds a family riven by secrets and long-standing resentments which are heightened by tensions in a society where a fearful frontier population struggles to impose itself on the people whom they have dispossessed.
In the course of seeking out the author of the curse, Alexander becomes increasingly entangled with both sides in the conflict – fugitive priests, displaced poets, rebellious plotters and agents of the king. His own life and liberty are seriously threatened as he is confronted with murder within his own family, and he finds the lines between superstition and faith, duty and loyalty blurred to the extent that he begins to question his own identity, and is forced to face up to the destructive power of love.
"Combines the iron-clad plotting of Sansom with the artful recreation of Mantel." - Barry Forshaw, Independent
"MacLean has the first-rate historian’s gift for making bygone political and religious squabbles seem rivetingly relevant and communicates her passion for the period without downplaying its brutishness." - Telegraph
"You would be wise to pick up Maclean’s A GAME OF SORROWS, a diverting historical mystery that combines the ironclad plotting of Sansom with the artful recreation of Mantel... the Celtic atmosphere has striking pungency, and Seaton is a nicely idiosyncratic protagonist... MacLean once again demonstrates that she is a distinctive talent." - Belfast Telegraph and Independent
"This is a substantial story, well researched, never slackening pace. Seaton’s life is charmed – at times unbelievably so – and MacLean leaves enough loose ends to give birth to a sequel." - Scotsman
"MacLean marshals her research well to create a vision of 17th century Ulster... Seaton is an interesting entry into the ranks of the historical detective characters and can hold his own with Matthew Shardlake and Brother Cadfael." - Sunday Herald
"The plot is cunningly woven, and presents a dark picture of Ulster at one of its most turbulent periods, which sowed the seeds for all the troubles which were to come in the succeeding centuries. A truly fine piece of writing, and not to be missed." - Shots Magazine
"Shona MacLean’s ambition and scope in her latest work pays off, resulting in an impressive novel. MacLean’s energetic prose and intricate historical detail is effective in bringing this particular period to life, whilst also making the characters current and engaging." - Ulster Tatler
"A book for CJ Sansom fans, A GAME OF SORROWS deftly tackles religion, superstition and murder. With informed attention to period detail, MacLean had crafted an intelligent and engrossing mystery." - Waterstones Books Quarter
"Rebellion, poetic curses, hidden love and violent passions all serve to make the story very exciting and enjoyable… gives a wonderful flavour of the time and are very much recommended." - Historical Novels Review
"MacLean is able to write a really compelling and engrossing narrative, and creates for us a narrator who intrigues and engages us without drawing too much attention away from the many other vibrant characters. If you only read one British historical mystery this year my recommendation would unquestionably be A GAME OF SORROWS." - Reviewing the Evidence (online)
"These conflicts, familiar to a modern reader, give the novel an immediacy and relevance... As an insight into the complexity of Irish politics and social relations, it is fascinating, giving readers a glimpse into a world in which people will give all for their loyalties." - The Skinny
"Another high quality novel... demonstrates her excellent grasp of the society and customs of both countries (Scotland and Ireland)… fascinating… I hope Alexander Seaton will be making a return soon." - Crime Squad (online)