Mystery in Scotland

If you are planning on going on a holiday in Scotland, this book should give you a valuable hint of where you have to go at all cost. Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart takes you to the Isle of Skye and won't let you leave until you have finished the book. And if you go there, this book should be part of the reading stuff to take along. Consider it a guidebook extraordinary when you read on site.

by +Lucas Dié on Books

Mary Stewart takes her readers to another out of the way place called Camasunary on the Isle of Skye at the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In fact, her heroine is tricked by her parents to go there. Being a well known London fashion model, she is looking to get out of the city and away from the crowd she moves in. Skye seems the ideal backwater place to get lost out in the wild. Camasunary in turn is behind the moon even on Skye standards. The out of the way hotel she arrives in, though, is occupied by the London party set and her ex-husband.

The setting Mary Stewart chose for the mystery couldn't be more spectacular. The landscape of Skye is ideal for her unique talent of landscape descriptions. She is taking her readers with her into the scene she so carefully sets. The location at the foot of the mountains of Skye sets the tone for a mystery of mountain climbing, climbers, and perpetual discussions of the ascent to Everest.

Throughout the story, she takes readers on a ride through the Celtic heritage of the region but with a nasty twist. The heritage that she builds the case on in this book is not really Celtic, but mumbo-jumbo invented by 19th century historians and carried on into the 21st century in the silly invented rituals of self-proclaimed druids and Celtic revivalists. In the story she neatly shows how dangerous part knowledge becomes in the hands of the clueless.

The plot is well conceived to keep you guessing in several directions all at once and keep you unsure if you really got any clue at all of what is going on. As it becomes clearer that a crackpot is lose on the island, it becomes ever more difficult to keep anyone out of suspicion. Accordingly, the heroine flounders about; she doesn't flounder heroically, she just gets herself from bad to worse trying to stay out of trouble. But like a bulldog, she can’t let go without answers.

The story takes you up and down the Blaven (Blà Bheinn) and the Cuillin Hills (An Cuilthionn, An Cuiltheann) while staying strictly confined to Camasunary. If you never thought of visiting Skye, this book should make up your mind that it is one of the most spectacular must see spots on earth. For once, she had to cheat quite a bit with the geography of her chosen landscape (there isn't really that much at Camasunary and most definitely no hotel or even a road), but it doesn't detract from her masterly description of the breathtaking views on offer.

The book was published in 1956 and has been out of print for a number of years. Now it is available on Kindle.