Ainslie meets Mary Allison in an ancient Highland graveyard. It is a tantalising meeting that raises more questions than it answers. Later encounters with Mary and with other local people gradually involve him in a mystery that, as a newcomer to the glen, he is not equipped to solve.
While the mystery deepens, Ainslie is employed for the winter by one of the local lairds to cull the surplus hinds from the red deer herds. Against the backdrop of the harsh and empty world of the Highlands, this strange and necessary rite will have an explosive climax.