Eamon Ansgar has returned to his childhood home at Duncul Castle, in the Scottish Highlands. Eamon has been away a while. Long enough to have pursued a career in the army that saw him posted to Afghanistan, and long enough to have left the army and tried - and failed - to become something in the city. His overbearing father has died, and Eamon has inherited the estate the family have owned for many centuries, an estate that comprises Duncul Castle, parts of the village of Duncul, and much of the land for a considerable distance in every direction. Plus a mysterious carved symbol stone in the cellars that appears to predate the castle itself and whose significance is unknown.
Some people would find a move to a Scottish castle idyllic, but not Eamon. A young boy has been killed in the village, and it seems that a childhood friend of Eamon was the murderer. Meanwhile there's been a break-in at the castle itself, and there are increasingly strange happenings on the estate. The more Eamon looks, the less things turn out to be what they appear. Worst of all, Rona, the beautiful girl Eamon has spent ten years trying to forget, is still beautiful, and living as near next door as you get when your home is a castle. Oh, and for some reason a migrant driven by voices and a billionaire scientist on a stolen super-yacht are each separately making their way from southern Europe towards north-west Scotland.
"Errant Blood" by C. F. Peterson is a superbly constructed literary thriller. The reader shares Eamon's bewilderment about just what is going on and why, but slowly the parts begin to fall into place; and the plot that emerges is global in scale, gripping, and sufficiently credible to keep you engaged. The central characters are nicely drawn and we find ourselves rooting for Eamon and Rona as the action hots up and it becomes clear that despite the remarkably genteel setting, people are playing for keeps and there is a very real possibility of no-one we care about getting to the final page alive.
The setting is fictional, though apparently somewhere on the west coast, roughly opposite Inverness, and near the head of a 20-mile long sea loch. We understand why a fictional setting was chosen by the author given the action that takes place over it, but for us it did mean that some of our attention was diverted away from the excellent storytelling and towards trying to fit Duncul into some sort of real world context. It would also have been a help if there has been a map provided of the fictional area. This would have made following the action a lot more straightforward: but that's perhaps just because we enjoy maps and like to understand geographical relationships. Without a real-world setting or a map, locations take on a slightly hazy, almost dream-like, quality, but that does nothing to diminish the enjoyment to be had from reading this excellent book.