Is basically a love story. A young woman lawyer and former fencing champion hears a dying man confess that a well-known writer serving a life sentence for the double murder of his wife and her lover is innocent. She meets him and they fall in love as she sets out to prove he was the victim of a plot to kill two people and pin the blame on him.
Aileen Seaton visits the writer Calum Weir in his Scottish open prison ostensibly to gather material for his biography, but really to collect evidence which will prove his innocence. Weir, she finds fascinating for his writings, his wit and view of life. But he orders her to forget him. He’s guilty, has done five years and is resigned to serving the other seven of his sentence.
However, Aileen discovers he has total amnesia about the murders committed in the Glasgow mansion Weir shared with his hot-blooded and blue-blooded wife. He fired five shots into his wife and six into his literary rival, Ross Kanaday while they were making love, then mutilated them both.
Why, Aileen asks, did her old law-firm partner, Geddes, put up such a lame defence for Weir; why did trial witnesses stretch the truth; why was the autopsy so badly botched?
She meets Weir’s first love and their son. She has a stormy interview with his first wife, a bitchy, abrasive woman journalist who might have had a hand in plotting Weir’s downfall. Aileen begins to suspect that the crooked Sir John Iverson Marr, who had grown up in the Glasgow slums with Weir, might also have wanted the writer out of his way to keep his own guilt secret.
It was one of Marr’s close friends, the devious Detective-Superintendent Jennings, who investigated the crime and amassed the evidence that convicted Weir.
She sees Kanaday’s wife, Joan, and her new husband, Alan Kelso, both medical research workers. Joan Kelso still hates Weir, the man who beat up then finally murdered her husband.
Gradually, Aileen and Weir form a bond and he tells her of the recurrent nightmares he has about the night of the murders. Aileen consults her ex-husband, a psychiatrist, and they realize these dreams are the encrypted key to the mystery. There are symbols like the wolf, a hooded crow, blue aconite flowers and a death’s-head bearing a poison chalice. Once deciphered, these should point to the murderer, be it Weir or someone else.
At Creggan House, scene of the murders, Aileen meets an enigmatic stranger and believes he is following her on Jennings’s orders. But she also finds clues indicating other people in the murder bedroom that night. After this she keeps her old duelling sword in her car.
Aileen arranges for Weir to have two weeks parole leave. She sees first-hand the scary effects of his dreams but finally persuades him to go back to Creggan House and re-enact what he thought happened that night. They conclude Weir was probably knocked out with a stun grenade or stun gun and then injected with drugs to provoke amnesia. In those two weeks, they become lovers.
When her research yields up the fact that Sir John Marr is illegitimate and was born to Weir’s errant father, this suggests a motive for Marr’s
hatred of the writer. Especially when Marr as a boy was suspected of having pushed his drunken father into the Clyde and drowned him. Jennings, too, was involved as the young police constable who investigated the father’s death. Aileen faces Marr with these facts and asserts that everything points to his having a hand in the murders. He throws her out of his house.
Several days later Aileen is attacked in the basement car park of her flat. Three figures are waiting in ambush for her. They are dressed as Weir finally remembered them, in hoods and masks and goggles. They throw a stun grenade, but Aileen is now prepared for this. One of them obviously means to kill or kidnap her, but she holds him and another man off with her duelling sword. Until one of them makes a rush and impales himself on the sword and dies in front of her. The other two flee.
From the identity of the dead man and the clues they leave, Aileen and a police superintendent trace the two people to the Kelsos’ research lab. At their home in the garage they find both the Kelsos dead, poisoned with carbon monoxide gas. Alan Kelso had left a note confessing that they and an accomplice had plotted the murders and laid the blame on Weir.
Weir is released and goes off with Aileen. He refuses all the big-money offers to write his story. Because, as he says, it’s her story as well as his, that is a love story.