Set in Scotland in 1626, this is an atmospheric and intelligent historical mystery. When we first meet Alexander Seaton he is a man who feels he has lost the respect of both his community and himself. Having been a promising scholar, he had hopes of becoming a minister, only to be humilated and his chances ruined when he was denounced by the father of an old friend. So, when he leaves the inn, where he had been previously drinking with his friends; the doctor James Jaffray and singing master Charles Thom (himself in the throes of despair over a girl who loves another), he wants to be out of the current storm and back in his bed in the schoolhouse - where he is now teaching - to nurse his woes. When a man calls to him for help, he assumes he is in his cups and ignores him, only to find him sprawled, dead across his desk, the next morning.
The man who is dead is Patrick Davidson, Charles Thom's rival in love, making him the prime suspect. When Thom is arrested, Jaffray and Seaton vow to prove his innocence. During this novel, we are taken from the fishing town of Banff, to Aberdeen, the fine castle of the Laird of Straloch, the cave of a woman healer and the shacks of outcast beggars. Seaton must not only discover who killed Patrick Davidson, but try to uncover possible papist plots and, more importantly, come to peace with himself. This really is a very good start to a promising historical mystery series, with a great setting and interesting characters. I look forward to reading more novels featuring Alexander Seaton and the world he inhabits.