Synopses & Reviews
"If there's a sword-like sang
That can cut Scotland clear
O a' the warld beside
Rax me the hilt o't here.
-- Hugh Macdiarmid,
"To Circumjack Cencrastus"
Carnmore, November 1898
Wrapped in her warmest cloak and shawl, Livvy Urquhart paced the worn kitchen flags. The red-walled room looked a cozy sanctuary with its warm stove and open shelves filled with crockery, but outside the wind whipped and moaned round the house and distillery with an eerily human voice, and the chill penetrated even the thick stone walls of the old house.
It was worry for her husband, Charles, that had kept Livvy up into the wee hours of the night. He would have been traveling back from Edinburgh when the blizzard struck, unexpectedly early in the season, unexpectedly fierce for late autumn.
And the road from Cock Bridge to Tomintoul, the route Charles must take to reach Carnmore, was always the first in Scotland to be completely blocked by snow. Had his carriage run off the track, both horse and driver blinded by the stinging wall of white fury that met them as they came up the pass? Was her husband even now lying in a ditch, or a snowbank, slowly succumbing to the numbing cold?
Her fear kept her pacing, long after she'd sent her son, sixteen-year-old Will, to bed, and as the hours wore on, the knowledge of her situation brought her near desperation. Trapped in the snug, white-harled house, she was as helpless as poor Charles, and useless to him. Soon she would not even be able to reach the distillery outbuildings, much less the track that led to the tiny village of Chapeltown.
Livvy sank into the rocker by the stove, fighting back tears she refused toacknowledge. She was a Grant by birth, after all, and Grants were no strangers to danger and harsh circumstances. They had not only survived in this land for generations but had also flourished, and if she had grown up in the relative comfort of the town, she had now lived long enough in the Braes to take hardship and isolation for granted.
And Charles ... Charles was a sensible man -- too sensible, she had thought often enough in the seventeen years of their marriage. He would have taken shelter at the first signs of the storm in some roadside inn or croft. He was safe, of course he was safe, and so she would hold him in her mind, as if her very concentration could protect him.
She stood again and went to the window. Wiping at the thick pane of glass with the hem of her cloak, she saw nothing but a swirl of white. What would she tell Will in the morning, if there was no sign of his father? A new fear clutched at her. Although a quiet boy, Will had a stubborn and impulsive streak. It would be like him to decide to strike off into the snow in search of Charles.
Hurriedly, she lit a candle and left the kitchen for the dark chill of the house, her heart racing. But when she reached her son's first-floor bedroom, she found him sleeping soundly, one arm free of his quilts, his much-read copy of Kidnapped open on his chest. Easing the book from his grasp, she rearranged the covers, then stood looking down at him. From his father he had inherited the neat features and the fine, straight, light brown hair, and from his father had come the love of books and the streak of romanticism. To Will, Davie Balfour and the Jacobite Alan Breck were as real as his friends at the distillery; butlately, his fascination with the Rebellion of '45 seemed to have faded, and he'd begun to talk more of safety bicycles and blowlamps, and the new steam-powered wagons George Smith was using to transport whisky over at Drumin. All natural for a boy his age, Livvy knew, especially with the new century now little more than a year away, but still it pained her to see him slipping out of the warm, safe confines of farm, village, and distillery.
More slowly, Livvy went downstairs, shivering a little even in her cloak, and settled again in her chair. She fixed her mind on Charles, but when an uneasy slumber at last overtook her, it was not Charles of whom she dreamed.
She saw a woman's heart-shaped face. Familiar dark eyes, so similar to her own, gazed back at her, but Livvy knew with the irrefutable certainty of dreams that it was not her own reflection she beheld. The woman's hair was dark and curling, like her own, but it had been cropped short, as if the woman had suffered an illness. The dream-figure wore odd clothing as well, a sleeveless shift reminiscent of a nightdress or an undergarment. Her exposed skin was brown as a laborer's, but when she raised a hand to brush at her cheek, Livvy saw that her hands were smooth and unmarked.
The woman seemed to be sitting in a railway carriage -- Livvy recognized the swaying motion of the train but the blurred landscape sped by outside the windows at a speed impossible except in dreams.
Livvy, trying to speak, struggled against the cotton wool that seemed to envelop her. "What-- Who--" she began, but the image was fading. It flared suddenly and dimmed, as if someone had blown out a lamp, but Livvy could have sworn that in thelast instant she had seen a glimpse of startled recognition in the woman's eyes.
She gasped awake, her heart pounding, but she knew at once it was not the dream that had awakened her. There had been a sound, a movement, at the kitchen door. Livvy stood, her hand to her throat, paralyzed by sudden hope. "Charles?"
The talented "New York Times Notable author makes her debut on the Morrow list. It's a fabulous story of death and betrayal set in Scotland in the world of whiskey making.
The acclaimed mystery author of "Dreaming of the Bones" returns with this evocative thriller of marriage, betrayal, and murder set in the wilds of Scotland.
New York Times
Notable Book of the Year author Deborah Crombie has garnered tremendous praise -- and has been nominated for virtually every major mystery award -- for her piercing police procedurals featuring Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, who are personally and professionally entwined. Now Gemma takes center stage when a lethal crime of passion turns a recreational trip to Scotland into pure bloody business.
Though her reputation for delving into the heart of murder is matched only by that of her former partner and current lover, Duncan Kincaid, newly appointed Detective Inspector Gemma James has never thought to question her friend Hazel Cavendish about her past. So it is quite a shock when Gemma learns that their holiday retreat to a hotel in the Scottish Highlands is, in fact, a homecoming for native daughter Hazel -- and an event that has provoked strong reactions from the small community. Something is definitely amiss -- and that something is quite possibly Donald Brodie, the charming if intense Scotsman who is a guest as well.
The truth comes out before long: Hazel and Brodie were once lovers, despite a vicious, long-standing feud between their families, rival local distillers of fine whisky. Their affair was fierce and passionate, and its fire might not have burned out completely. Certainly Brodie, now the domineering head of the family business, believes his "Juliet" still belongs to him alone -- and he's prepared to destroy Hazel's English marriage to make it so.
A brutal murder puts Hazel's very life in peril when she's arrested for the crime. Hazel is the logical suspect, but Gemma knows nothing is simple in this place of secrets and long-seething hatreds. As even more damning evidence piles up against the friend Gemma never truly knew, the investigation into Hazel and Brodie's history begins to take darker, more sinister and tumultuous turns. Gemma knows she will need assistance to unravel this bloody knot -- and so she calls the one man she trusts more than any other, Duncan Kincaid, to join her far from home . . . and in harm's way.
About the Author
Deborah Crombie was born and educated in Texas and has lived in both England and Scotland. Her Kincaid and James novels have received Edgar, Agatha, and Macavity Award nominations, and her fifth novel, Dreaming of the Bones, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was selected as one of the 100 Best Crime Novels of the Century by the Independent Mystery Booksellers of America. Her novels have been published in Japan, Germany, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, France, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom. Ms. Crombie travels to England several times a year and has been a featured speaker at St. Hilda's College, Oxford. She lives in a small North Texas town, sharing a turn-of-the-century house with her husband, three cats, and a German shepherd dog.