In this novel, George Mackay Brown links the mediaeval story of St. Magnus, martyred on the Island of Egilsay in the Orkneys in a power struggle, and that of the philospher Dietrich Bonhoeffer, murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War. The story of Magnus is a most compelling one , and it is told here by a man with a poet's way with words ; the scent of the spray, the rich brown of the tilled fields, the distant songs of the monks and the social divide between the people and the Earls of Orkney in the time of Norse rule are all vividly present. Magnus expected to die and went to his death with a sense that it was necessary, head held high. The martyrdom of Bonhoeffer was a more squalid, hole-in-the-corner affair, but essentially its message was the same : that evil can destroy the embodiment of good physically but not the nature of good or our response to the courage and example of the martyr. Mackay Brown's story is only one of countless martyrdom stories, but it has a freshness and poignancy all its own.