1581: young St Andrews academic Hew Cullan is unhappy with his life and disillusioned with the law. After his father's death he is invited by the advocate Richard Cunningham to complete his legal education in Edinburgh as Richard's pupil at the bar. Among his father's things Hew finds a manuscript entitled 'In Defence of the Law', directed to the Edinburgh printer, Christian Hall. At first, he resists its influence, but when a young girl is found dead on the beach at St Andrews, he is left unsettled and confused. He resolves to take the book to press and agrees to Richard's offer. Embarking on his new life in the capital, he falls in love. His relationships are fraught with lies and secrets and lead to brutal murder on the borough muir. Hew suspects a link with the dead girl on the beach. As he begins his desperate search to find the killer, he finds that the truth lies closer to home.

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