A sequel to the author's Lantern for the Barn (1992), that lowering, robustly peopled novel about an infanticide trial in 1788 Glasgow. The time is now 1802, and the acquitted mother, recently widowed after a post-trial marriage, finds herself mistress of a considerable estate and a flourishing salt works in Ayrshire Enter that rogue, cheat, and extraordinary lover Frederick Striker, father of the murdered baby; although he was not responsible, he's no stranger to untimely deaths. Frederick Striker had arrived on a dark and stormy night by sea, determined to marry Clare. Although she had been certain ""her rage was impermeable,"" Clare is dismayed to discover that she draws, still, a split-second pleasure from Frederick. Also lodging in Clare's house is the French scientist Henri Leblanc, a student of Lavoisier, who promises great inventions based on the interaction of gases. To the surprise of all, Clare appoints Frederick her factor in the salt works and provides Henri (who is charming Clare's young daughter) with a laboratory. In the meantime, Frederick lures former enemies into plots not only to profit from Henri's work, but also to gain ownership of Clare's estate Also pursuing Frederick are an Irish beauty, who's not only his lover but also the daughter of his vanished wife, and the wife of a local industrialist. Before Clare, who's done her own plotting, takes her long-awaited revenge, there'll be a killing, a monstrous birth during a stormy catastrophe in the church, murderous games (there's an almost-hanging), and various (arranged) explosions from Henri's laboratory. Not as concentrated in dramatic plausibility, perhaps, as Lantern, but the heroines are gritty, keen, and hard-working; the ambiance is realistically seaside-rugged; and Stirling has again gathered a group of well-intentioned-to-deadly beings from whom she wrings plenty of melodrama, suspense, and gossip.