Banff in the 1620s. A man staggering down the street. He appears drunk, but he's been poisoned. The victim, and apothecary's apprentice, is discovered dead in Alexander Seaton's house, a fallen minister whose life lies in tatters after his affair with the Laird's daughter is discovered and he is cast out of the kirk in disgrace. When his friend is accused of the apprentice's murder, Alexander sets out to solve the crime and clear his friend's name.
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It is 1628, Charles I is on the throne, and the British Crown is finally taking control of Ulster. Returning to his rooms one night, Alexander Seaton is shocked to find a stranger standing there - a man who could be his double. His name is Sean O'Neill, and he carries a plea for help from Maeve O'Neill, forbidding matriarch of Alexander's mother's family in Ireland. All those who bear their blood have been placed under a curse and only Alexander, whose heritage has been kept a secret, is immune.
It is Midsummer, 1631, and while Alexander Seaton and his fellow masters enjoy the holiday, Robert Sim, librarian of Marischal College, is murdered in a dark alleyway in town. As the university and town authorities investigate the murder, Seaton is asked by the college principal to look into Sim's private life. During the course of this research, Alexander discovers a side to the librarian he could never have guessed, and personal feelings threaten to cloud his judgment and endanger his new marriage.