Book Review: Scotch Rising by S. J. Garland

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Edinburgh 1707. The English supporters in the Scottish parliament have narrowly signed the Act of Union. The controversial paper bringing England and Scotland together into one Great Britain will not be uncontested. From the Acts inception it appears doomed to carry the blood of Scots and Englishman alike. Esmond Clyde-Dalton returns to London a broken man after his wife’s death. He only seeks a dishonorable discharge. His superior Colonel Manner’s, known for his extensive spy network, has other plans. Sent to the highlands of Scotland to become an excise collector on Scotch. Esmond quickly becomes embroiled in solving the murders of two Scots men. As his investigation continues, Esmond soon realises life in Markinch is not all it seems. Esmond’s peaceful retirement turns to a fight to save not only his life, but also the lives of friends he has made in the highlands.

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I didn’t know what to expect, because it isn’t a genre I try often; the historical part caught my interest. It was engaging and believable, so I found it a welcome breath of fresh air from my reading comfort zones.

In Scotland, the Captain finds himself sucked into a mystery. The tax collector before him died, and looking at the things he left behind, the story everyone tells explaining it seems dishonest. Suspicious Captain Dalton takes the mystery on himself, but it won’t be easy.

While the setting and hook were masterfully done, on retrospect I find it disorienting that he gets into so much trouble. The things Dalton did seemed rash at times. He seemed to act on impulse a lot and got hurt…very frequently.

It’s the one thing about his character that bugged me: He seemed to make a lot of decisions on a whim, even after recovering from injuries. But it doesn’t really take away from the story; those were moments I would have screamed at the television, were it a movie.

My favorite character was Kieran, who in his youth is brave and sometimes more prudent than the captain. I think he will develop to be one of my all-time favorite characters, the “small” hero who proves himself to be more for his age.

Something else I loved was the use of dialect. It made the characters very realistic, and as a whole added vibrant color to the pages.

I would read this book again, and absolutely do recommend it. Mine was a digital copy which was the only reason I didn’t finish it in a day (reading on iPad screens is a bit irritating.) Get a print copy–I want one myself, and I really want to read the next book!

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