The Stone of Destiny
Andrew Neil Macleod
Burning Chair Books
Published on October 31st
This is the second book in the Casebook of Johnson & Boswell series, set in 18th century Scotland, which features legendary English scholar Doctor Samuel Johnson investigating mysterious supernatural phenomena alongside his bumbling companion, James Boswell. This follows on from The Fall of the House of Thomas Weir, but you don’t need to have read that one to enjoy this – those events are mentioned briefly but this is a completely new adventure. I liked the way the author incorporates history, myths and legends with medicine, science and paranormal elements and throws them all into a mostly light-hearted adventure story.
Doctor Johnson has decided to prove that the historic Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation ceremonies of British monarchs since being stolen from Scotland by Edward I, is a fake. He persuades Boswell to accompany him on a tour of the Highlands, following a series of clues to the Stone’s origin and secret location – but each stop throws our unlikely heroes into mortal peril as they explore local legends and encounter terrifying threats, from werewolves to the Loch Ness Monster, and mad scientists to deranged cultists.
Unlike the first book, this was a series of separate short adventures linked by the quest for the Stone, interspersed with Boswell’s diary entries, and told mostly by an omniscient narrator. The protagonists, accompanied by their taciturn but resourceful Bohemian manservant Joseph, are welcomed and put up everywhere they go, largely because of Johnson’s fame. Their tour of Scotland and it’s mythology was both interesting and entertaining – I didn’t know much about the Celtic “Fair Folk” and their link to the lost Kingdom of Atlantis. Some of the characters introduced are based on real historical figures and true places, such as Lord Mondobbo, and Castle Gight: this is the kind of book that makes you grateful for Wikipedia!
This was a well written entertaining story, and I would recommend it to those who like a dose of horror-fantasy in their historical fiction. I also particularly liked the gothic cover image, and look forward to continuing the series.
Thanks to NetGalley and Burning Chair for the ARC.