Glasgow, 1492. Gilbert Cunningham’s plans for completing his legal training and becoming a priest and notary like his uncle, Canon David Cunningham, are interrupted when he meets two women, quick and dead.
Bess Stewart, wife of local landowner John Semphill, has escaped his brutality for the love of an itinerant blind Irish musician, a harper named Aenghus. No one objects much, especially not Semphill, who’s quickly taken up with beautiful Lady Euphemia Campbell, whose taste runs to brutality and expensive gowns. But when the traveling musicians return to Glasgow, Semphill urgently requests a meeting with Bess—a meeting from which she does not return. Gil finds the woman’s body stabbed to death on a construction site on St. Mungo’s land, a site that makes the investigation his responsibility and that of Master Pierre, the observant French mason supervising the construction. They are supported by the mason’s daughter, Alys, an intelligent young woman who is making Gil’s plans for the priesthood most unappealing. Gil must travel to the island of Bute, track down intricate inheritances and family relationships, dodge a handful of Campbells, learn about odd Irish customs, and witness the offhand murder of an Italian caught in the middle before a medieval Scottish courtroom scene reveals the true perp.
In spite of all the violence, the affectionate family relationships and warm characterizations shine most brightly here: a charming plaid debut.