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The small Hebridean island of Alsaig is facing a crisis. It is famous for its only export, a particularly fine malt whisky, upon which most of the islanders depend for their livelihood. But the distillery is threatened with a takeover by an American firm, which would not only make many of the workforce redundant but also adulterate the product.

But owner Alisdair Matheson is refusing to sell, despite threats of sabotage and an attempt on his life. The situation is complicated further by an actual murder on the island, which the locals believe to have been committed by American Mike MacDonald. Tension mounts as storms lash the island, isolating it from the outside world and locking the killer in with the islanders.