Robert Sim, librarian of the Marischal College in New Aberdeen, is found stabbed to death in a dank alleyway near the college one Sunday morning in the summer of 1631. One of the last people to have seen him alive was Alexander Seaton; he left Robert cataloguing the contents of a benefaction which had recently come to the library. Near to Robert’s body the discarded murder weapon is found: a tiny but lethally sharp knife, recognisable to Alexander and his fellow college regents as a doctor’s scalpel.
Alexander’s investigations into Robert’s death lead him to discover a clandestine Masonic-style group, run by a young doctor. But when another body is found – that of a weaver who seems to have no connection to the mysterious group – Alexander begins to suspect he is following the wrong leads. And that the murderer might be closer to home than could ever be imagined.
"MacLean provides an ingenious plot." - Sunday Times
"Once hooked, this was a book I found hard to put down. This was due in no small measure to Shona MacLean's mastery of plot. The central character, Alexander Seaton, is particularly engaging." - Scots Magazine
"Seaton is a compellingly flawed yet indomitable figure who inspires our respect, pity and empathy in equal measure . Crucible is a yarn that romps along at breakneck speed . Vivid historical pictures immediately bring the period to life." - Scottish Field
"A puzzler of intrigue, politics and religion, particularly the growing fascination with mysterious brotherhoods." - Time Out
"MacLean has a PhD in History and her knowledge of the period shines through the book, a satisfyingly juicy read. Highly recommended." - CrimeSquad
"The period detail is excellent; the Aberdeen of the time is richly imagined, and the dialogue is terrifically subtle. The characterisation too is accomplished with both major and minor characters clearly and enjoyably distinct. While there are passing similarities with Shirley McKay's Hew Cullan and Matthew Shardlake, the sleuth of C.J. Sansom, Alexander Seaton is an original and complex character in his own right with an eventful history and intriguing psychology." - Historical Novels Review
"Admirers of Shona MacLean's earlier novels will not be disappointed by the latest appearance of her Scottish sleuth, Alexander Seaton. Newcomers to the series be warned! You will find yourselves plunged into the claustrophobic society of 17th century Aberdeen, where fear stalks the corridors of academia and student battles besmirch the public beach ... Crucible has a satisfying plot, but more importantly it has satisfying characters and a setting that educates as well as entertains. Alexander Seaton is well served." - Shotsmag
'A gripping and well-written treat.' - Good Book Guide.