Sensible American Isabel Garth has come to the remote Orkney Islands of northernmost Scotland to reclaim her past. Abandoned by her longtime lover, she takes a summer off to sketch the cottage in Digerness where her late father lived as a child. But as she roams the lush, wild countryside in the "simmer dim"—the arctic June twilight that stretches halfway till dawn—she finds a history more vast and ancient than her family's. The Viking tomb at Maes Howe and the sacred ruin of Hamehollow are merely the gaudiest of Orkney's jewels; even local farmers like Graham Sinclair and Ross MacDonald have excavated treasure troves of Viking tools and battle gear from their fields. Isabel's most striking sense of the past, however, comes not from a place but a person: the self-proclaimed witch Thora, who, though barely out of her teens, sees herself as the guardian of the old ways and warns Isabel of danger. And Thora's prophecy seems apt; not a week into her visit, Isabel is knocked over in the street, has her sketchbook stolen and her brake cables cut, and receives a copy of The Orkneyinga Saga bookmarked to the scene of Prince Harald's death. So when death comes not to Isabel but to Thora, the irony is not lost on the sensible heroine, who must use modern American logic to confront demons from the Scottish past.
Malice Domestic winner Wadley plays story and setting expertly against one another: an engrossing series debut.