Tag Archives: SG MacLean

The Black Friar

By S.G. MacLean

Here’s a puzzle for Damian Seeker. Carter Blyth, one of Thurloe’s secret agents has been found dead, hidden behind a wall (echoes of Sherlock or Jonathan Creek) and dressed as a friar. What’s going on? Did Seeker miss his invite to MI5’s tarts-and-vicars Christmas party?

It gets even more murky when it becomes known that various children have been going missing, that Anne Winter is up to something, and that Shadrach Jones is not some harmless gerund grinder in the days when such things mattered before student-centred learning became all the rage.

If that’s not enough, Seeker also has to deal with a whole crew of religious nut jobs who make Cromwell and his regime look positively enlightened in comparison, and the grave illness that has been afflicting Thurloe himself. (Aside: Is it just me, or has MacLean never noticed the irony of the man’s name, which contains the element Thor-?)

The second volume doesn’t quite have the engaging intricacies of the first, or the climax(es). The revelation of the machinery of Anne Winter’s trickery leads to no great moment, and the resolution of the plot line about the missing children is similarly flat. “Yeah, the kiddies were down the back of the sofa.”

Nonetheless, it’s quite fun to have the likes of Samuel Pepys and various other historical personages knocking about.

This may be Seeker’s second and last outing, or perhaps MacLean is going to take him to the mean streets of Yorkshire [Er, you do realise Yorkshire’s a shire, don’t you? –Ed.] where he can say, “There’s trouble at t’ mill” and “I certainly was expecting the Spanish Inquisition because I’d been reading MI5’s intelligence reports.” And he may also find Anne Winter still up to her pretty Royalist nose in plots to unseat Oliver Cromwell.

The Seeker

By S.G. MacLean

Damian Seeker is a secret policeman, protecting Oliver Cromwell from various Royalist plots. When John Winter, one of Cromwell’s favourites, is murdered, the authorities believe Elias Ellingworth is the culprit, but Seeker is not so sure, and his investigation reveals all manner of secrets as he attempts to rescue Ellingworth from arbitrary justice and stop a daring assassination attempt on Cromwell himself.

It’s difficult to write a synopsis of The Seeker without giving the game away, but there are drug addicts, white slavers, Royalist plots, and war crimes all tangled together. Party fun for the whole family.

Seeker is an anti-anti-antihero (which probably makes him an antihero anyway). He works for the wrong people because history is against Cromwell and his religious fanatics, and Seeker’s reputation is one that instills fear in most people who cross his path. On the other hand, he’s quite determined to make sure that Elias Ellingworth isn’t executed for a crime he never committed, and he doesn’t mind bending reality out of shape to see fairness done rather than justice.

Seeker is James Bond without the sex and gadgets. He is a character who is based on reputation, and he only has to snap and snarl a little, and people crumbled in the face of his forthright questioning, but in the course of the novel, he only gets into a serious confrontation with Alexander Seaton to prove his credentials. Other than that, he’s so tough that when he wants to wash his clothes, he hurls himself at rocks in a river.

If anything, Seeker could do with a sidekick to lighten the load of being so tough that when he combs his hair, he doesn’t stop till he gets to the bone, and when he shaves, if there’s no blood, it means there’s still stubble. But who might step into this exalted position as Sancho Panza to Seeker’s, er, Torquemada? No candidates step forward immediately.

The plot is certainly engaging as it twists and turns even if it’s one of those books where some opening scene, which is a significant clue to what drives the tale, is soon forgotten. Nonetheless, the plot is sufficiently appealing for me to have me buying the next volume in the series.