Extract from A Killing in Van Diemen's Land by Douglas Watt

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Move over Rebus. There’s a new – or should that be<br />

old – detective <strong>in</strong> town. matthew perren<br />








douglas watt was born <strong>in</strong> Ed<strong>in</strong>burgh and brought up there and <strong>in</strong><br />

Aberdeen. He was educated at the University of Ed<strong>in</strong>burgh where<br />

he ga<strong>in</strong>ed an ma and phd <strong>in</strong> Scottish History. <strong>Douglas</strong> is the author<br />

of a series of historical crime novels set <strong>in</strong> late 17th century Scotland<br />

featur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>vestigative advocate John MacKenzie and his sidekick<br />

Davie Scougall. He is also the author of The Price of Scotland, a<br />

prize-w<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g history of Scotland’s Darien Disaster. He lives <strong>in</strong><br />

Midlothian with his wife Julie.<br />

<strong>by</strong> the same author<br />

historical crime fiction:<br />

Death of a Chief<br />

Testament of a Witch<br />

Pilgrim of Slaughter<br />

The Unnatural Death of a Jacobite<br />

history:<br />

The Price of Scotland<br />

<strong>Watt</strong> conjures up a pungent atmosphere of darkness and period detail.<br />

the herald<br />

A whodunnit satisfy<strong>in</strong>gly rich <strong>in</strong> unfamiliar period detail.<br />

morn<strong>in</strong>g star<br />

Historical crime doesn’t come much better. Walk<strong>in</strong>g the streets of 17th<br />

century Ed<strong>in</strong>burgh has never been so vivid.<br />

liam rudden<br />

Pa<strong>in</strong>ts the period vividly <strong>in</strong> a gripp<strong>in</strong>g read.<br />

ed<strong>in</strong>burgh even<strong>in</strong>g news<br />

Th<strong>in</strong>k Rebus for the 17th century, <strong>in</strong> a tense mystery.<br />

scottish field

<strong>Watt</strong> really s<strong>in</strong>ks his teeth <strong>in</strong>to the drama unfold<strong>in</strong>g at the time… <strong>Watt</strong><br />

is an <strong>in</strong>telligent writer. The strength and quality of his writ<strong>in</strong>g is ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

throughout the book, ensur<strong>in</strong>g it rema<strong>in</strong>s an <strong>in</strong>trigu<strong>in</strong>g read.<br />

the courier & advertiser<br />

Move over Rebus. There’s a new – or should that be old – detective<br />

<strong>in</strong> town.<br />

i-on ed<strong>in</strong>burgh on Death of a Chief<br />

This is Ian Rank<strong>in</strong> meets Sir Walter Scott (but without the academic<br />

monologues): dastardly deeds, men and women with twisted motives,<br />

dynastic struggles, bitter religious factionalism, all leavened with some<br />

h<strong>in</strong>ts of romance, but the essence of the tale rema<strong>in</strong>s the mystery of<br />

MacLean’s death and its unravell<strong>in</strong>g… a rollick<strong>in</strong>g good read.<br />

lothian life on Death of a Chief<br />

Very evocative and atmospheric.<br />

crimesquad on Death of a Chief<br />

Conjures up an Ed<strong>in</strong>burgh which is strangely familiar but also somewhat<br />

different to the present-day city.<br />

ed<strong>in</strong>burgh even<strong>in</strong>g news on Death of a Chief<br />

Conjures up a conv<strong>in</strong>c<strong>in</strong>gly dark atmosphere at this cusp of the age<br />

of reason.<br />

the herald on Testament of a Witch<br />

A thoroughly well told and enterta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g historical crime drama…<br />

Historical fiction needs to be well researched, but <strong>from</strong> a reader’s po<strong>in</strong>t<br />

of view the results of the research need to be woven <strong>in</strong>to a narrative <strong>in</strong><br />

a way that appears effortless. <strong>Douglas</strong> <strong>Watt</strong> has succeeded admirably <strong>in</strong><br />

immers<strong>in</strong>g the reader <strong>in</strong> a Scotland very alien to the one we see around us<br />

today. The historical sett<strong>in</strong>gs and characters feel just right, and the result<br />

is a book which both enterta<strong>in</strong>s and <strong>in</strong>forms.<br />

undiscovered scotland on Testament of a Witch

The book is well written, well plotted and the ma<strong>in</strong> characters engage<br />

our sympathies <strong>from</strong> the outset. The murder and detection elements<br />

are woven well <strong>in</strong>to the historical aspects of the book. The descriptions<br />

of how witches were identified and dealt with are both fasc<strong>in</strong>at<strong>in</strong>g and<br />

horrify<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

fictionfan on Testament of a Witch<br />

Ed<strong>in</strong>burgh is one of the book’s ma<strong>in</strong> characters, and <strong>Douglas</strong> <strong>Watt</strong><br />

has caught the rhythms of the great city – its pulsat<strong>in</strong>g politics, its<br />

strict religious codes tempered <strong>by</strong> bawd<strong>in</strong>ess, and its grasp<strong>in</strong>g love of<br />

commerce and money.<br />

crimesquad on Pilgrim of Slaughter<br />

<strong>Watt</strong> skilfully reconstructs the political events of the period and weaves<br />

a conv<strong>in</strong>c<strong>in</strong>g mystery around them.<br />

lothian life on Pilgrim of Slaughter<br />

The identity of the murderer will keep you guess<strong>in</strong>g until the very end<br />

and the idea a murderer is on the loose dur<strong>in</strong>g the turmoil of the revolution<br />

keeps the pages turn<strong>in</strong>g. A must-read if either murder mysteries<br />

or history are your th<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

nicky cooper brown on Pilgrim of Slaughter

A <strong>Kill<strong>in</strong>g</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>Van</strong><br />

Diemen’s <strong>Land</strong><br />


First published 2020<br />

isbn: 978-1-913025-45-8<br />

The author’s right to be identified as author of this book<br />

under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 has been<br />

asserted.<br />

The paper used <strong>in</strong> this book is recyclable. It is made <strong>from</strong> low<br />

chlor<strong>in</strong>e pulps produced <strong>in</strong> a low energy, low emission manner<br />

<strong>from</strong> renewable forests.<br />

Pr<strong>in</strong>ted and bound <strong>by</strong> Bell & Ba<strong>in</strong> Ltd., Glasgow<br />

Typeset <strong>in</strong> 10.5 po<strong>in</strong>t Sabon <strong>by</strong> Lapiz<br />

© <strong>Douglas</strong> <strong>Watt</strong> 2020

To Julie

All manner of s<strong>in</strong> and blasphemy shall be forgiven<br />

unto men: but the blasphemy aga<strong>in</strong>st the<br />

Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven.<br />

Matthew 12:31

List of Ma<strong>in</strong> Characters<br />

JOHN MacKENZIE – advocate<br />

DAVIE SCOUGALL – writer<br />

CHRISSIE SCOUGALL – wife of Davie Scougall<br />


JACOB KERR – merchant<br />

MARGARET KERR – wife of Jacob Kerr<br />

MARY KERR – daughter of Jacob Kerr<br />

JANE MONTGOMERY – servant of Jacob Kerr<br />

AGNES CAIRNS – servant of Jacob Kerr<br />

THOMAS CAIRNS – son of Agnes Cairns<br />

ALEXANDER FRASER – student<br />


prologue<br />

Scotland, 1690<br />

Corruption first stirred <strong>in</strong> my soul long ago and has<br />

grown like a tumour with<strong>in</strong> me ever s<strong>in</strong>ce. One moment I am<br />

happy <strong>in</strong> the worship of the Lord, the next fallen <strong>in</strong>to deepest<br />

despair. I become a creature tossed and turned <strong>by</strong> every w<strong>in</strong>d<br />

of temptation, blown here and there like a boat upon the<br />

ocean of the world.<br />

When I blow out my candle <strong>in</strong> my chamber at night,<br />

I tremble <strong>in</strong> the darkness, my m<strong>in</strong>d fill<strong>in</strong>g with dreadful<br />

visions which will not leave me all night long. I get no rest<br />

dur<strong>in</strong>g the hours of blackness. I am beholden to my thoughts<br />

and ruled <strong>by</strong> them, sometimes until the light of dawn peeps<br />

through the awn<strong>in</strong>g and birds beg<strong>in</strong> to s<strong>in</strong>g.<br />

Dur<strong>in</strong>g the night, all my s<strong>in</strong>s are presented to me. I know<br />

them like the l<strong>in</strong>es on my hands. My s<strong>in</strong>s are these: my want<br />

of the love of Christ, my pride, both natural and spiritual,<br />

my hypocrisy and my backslid<strong>in</strong>g. In the wake of these lesser<br />

transgressions comes much worse – the perverse notion of<br />

disbelief <strong>in</strong>fects my thoughts. God help me through this vale<br />

of tears!<br />

When I am afflicted <strong>by</strong> s<strong>in</strong>, whether <strong>in</strong> my chamber at<br />

night, or on the causeway dur<strong>in</strong>g the day, or even <strong>in</strong> the<br />

house, I hear words spoken <strong>in</strong>side my head. They are so clear<br />

that I know not if they are <strong>from</strong> my own be<strong>in</strong>g or <strong>from</strong> some<br />

other creature bid<strong>in</strong>g with<strong>in</strong> me. Such loathsome words that<br />

I dare not commit them to paper. I believe there is no other<br />

creature <strong>in</strong> the whole world so bound to s<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g than me.<br />


a kill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> van diemen’s land<br />

There is no temptation out of Hell that I am not bewitched<br />

<strong>by</strong>. When Satan sees all his temptations are yielded to, he<br />

presents the f<strong>in</strong>al s<strong>in</strong> to me. It is the worst s<strong>in</strong> of all. It is the<br />

mother of all s<strong>in</strong>s. It is the s<strong>in</strong> of atheism.<br />

As my corruption grows day after day, night after night,<br />

I am tempted more and more to call out aloud and blaspheme<br />

to the wide world, proclaim<strong>in</strong>g my s<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g nature to all, even<br />

dur<strong>in</strong>g the hour of holy prayer, or <strong>in</strong> the Kirk as the m<strong>in</strong>ister<br />

preaches, or even at the table dur<strong>in</strong>g Holy Communion,<br />

when I should be covenanted with the Lord. I have an ach<strong>in</strong>g<br />

desire to shout out such th<strong>in</strong>gs as: The words written <strong>in</strong><br />

the Bible are fancy. They are not the words of God, but the<br />

contrivance of men. The m<strong>in</strong>isters are not servants of God<br />

but seducers of the people. These words are on the tip of<br />

my tongue. At such times, I fear I am not known <strong>by</strong> Him.<br />

I am cast out of His house. You are noth<strong>in</strong>g, I say to myself.<br />

You come <strong>from</strong> noth<strong>in</strong>g. You pass to noth<strong>in</strong>g. You deserve<br />

noth<strong>in</strong>g. How can you be promised everlast<strong>in</strong>g life when you<br />

are a vile s<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g creature who doubts the existence of God?<br />

I cannot be rid of such thoughts. The temptation to th<strong>in</strong>k<br />

them is always with me, especially at night when it rises to<br />

fever pitch. But more and more, such thoughts spr<strong>in</strong>g up,<br />

unbidden, dur<strong>in</strong>g the day. I desire more and more to proclaim<br />

my life is a sham, holy form without, while at my core, I am<br />

festered <strong>by</strong> s<strong>in</strong>.<br />

I know who is responsible for my torture. I know who<br />

speaks with<strong>in</strong> my head. I see him <strong>in</strong> my m<strong>in</strong>d’s eye. Sometimes<br />

he is just a presence, a sense of forebod<strong>in</strong>g. Other times, he<br />

is a corporeal creature who watches me <strong>in</strong> the fields beyond<br />

the city walls or <strong>in</strong> the woods. Satan walks among us, the<br />

m<strong>in</strong>ister tells us. We must be on our guard for him. We must<br />

watch out for the Tempter. Satan throws stones of s<strong>in</strong> at us.<br />

Some are pebbles which I swat away like flies, others are<br />

rocks which pierce my sk<strong>in</strong> and send me reel<strong>in</strong>g.<br />


scotland, 1690<br />

As I grow <strong>in</strong> my s<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g, there comes <strong>in</strong>to my m<strong>in</strong>d one<br />

s<strong>in</strong> more agreeable to my nature than all the rest. It squeezes<br />

the others out of my thoughts, like the cuckoo displaces<br />

its rivals <strong>from</strong> the nest. I call it my predom<strong>in</strong>ant. It is like<br />

a beautiful jewel absorb<strong>in</strong>g the eye and which the heart<br />

desires. I encourage it. I keep it <strong>in</strong> my heart hidden <strong>from</strong> all.<br />

It returns each night. I fight it with all my strength but cannot<br />

be rid of it. It enflames my m<strong>in</strong>d with visions so depraved<br />

that, when I recall them <strong>in</strong> the light of day, I shudder to the<br />

pith of my bones.<br />

When s<strong>in</strong> has me <strong>in</strong> its grasp, tight as a vice, I grow<br />

weary of everyth<strong>in</strong>g and fall <strong>in</strong>to lassitude. I feel a deadness<br />

of spirit. I am overcome with a desire to sleep, even dur<strong>in</strong>g<br />

secret prayer, when I am usually full of vigour and joyous<br />

<strong>in</strong> the Lord. I am like a stone at the bottom of the ocean,<br />

crushed <strong>by</strong> the vast weight of water above. I am noth<strong>in</strong>g but<br />

a hypocrite. I am the vilest creature ever born <strong>in</strong> the world.<br />

God has surely cast me <strong>from</strong> his holy vessel and abandoned<br />

me to drown <strong>in</strong> an ocean of s<strong>in</strong>. Then, the temptation to<br />

misbelieve sweeps through me. It is irresistible unto my<br />

m<strong>in</strong>d. There is noth<strong>in</strong>g, there is no God, I say to myself aga<strong>in</strong><br />

and aga<strong>in</strong>. There is no Saviour. There is no Christ. There is<br />

no Redemption. I forget the mighty works of the Lord. The<br />

wise words of the m<strong>in</strong>isters are sand <strong>in</strong> the w<strong>in</strong>d. I see only<br />

the corruptions <strong>in</strong> my nature which render me vile. I dare not<br />

look at my face <strong>in</strong> the glass lest I see the Devil’s mark on my<br />

countenance. I repeat the words aga<strong>in</strong> and aga<strong>in</strong>, countless<br />

times <strong>in</strong> the chamber of my m<strong>in</strong>d. There is no Christ. There<br />

is no Redemption. There is no God.<br />


chapter 1<br />

A Meet<strong>in</strong>g with the Lord Advocate<br />

‘Congratulations on becom<strong>in</strong>g a grandfather’, said<br />

Dalrymple, look<strong>in</strong>g up with a h<strong>in</strong>t of a smile on his pale face.<br />

He sat beh<strong>in</strong>d a huge desk, on which two candles flickered,<br />

the only source of light <strong>in</strong> the dark, w<strong>in</strong>dowless chamber.<br />

Dressed entirely <strong>in</strong> black, his body seemed to meld with the<br />

surround<strong>in</strong>g darkness, accentuat<strong>in</strong>g his ghostly features and<br />

the whiteness of his wig.<br />

Rosehaugh was Lord Advocate the last time MacKenzie<br />

had sat <strong>in</strong> this room. Rosehaugh was now gone – swept out<br />

<strong>by</strong> the revolution two years before, just as MacKenzie was<br />

swept out of the Court of Session. The world was <strong>in</strong>deed<br />

turned upside down, although some th<strong>in</strong>gs rema<strong>in</strong>ed the<br />

same. The Lord Advocate’s office was the same dismal,<br />

stuffy chamber. The same grim pa<strong>in</strong>t<strong>in</strong>gs covered the walls,<br />

depict<strong>in</strong>g previous Advocates, just perceptible <strong>in</strong> the shadows.<br />

MacKenzie doubted Rosehaugh’s portrait hung among them<br />

yet. The revolution was still raw and its f<strong>in</strong>al outcome was<br />

perhaps uncerta<strong>in</strong>.<br />

‘I’m twice blessed, my Lord’, MacKenzie replied. ‘My<br />

daughter is returned to me after her…’, he hesitated for a<br />

moment, search<strong>in</strong>g for the right words to describe Elizabeth’s<br />

elopement with Ruairidh MacKenzie, ‘…adventure <strong>in</strong> the<br />

Highlands. And I have a grandson at the Hawthorns.’<br />

‘I’m pleased to hear it.’ Dalrymple’s expression reverted<br />

to its usual ston<strong>in</strong>ess. ‘Have you heard anyth<strong>in</strong>g of your<br />

chief?’ he asked casually, rotat<strong>in</strong>g the quill <strong>in</strong> his right hand.<br />


a meet<strong>in</strong>g with the lord advocate<br />

MacKenzie had to be careful with what he said.<br />

Dalrymple supported the revolution that had brought<br />

William to the throne. MacKenzie did not, but neither was<br />

he committed to the Jacobites who sought the restoration<br />

of James Stuart, the previous K<strong>in</strong>g. His chief Seaforth was,<br />

however, a devoted Jacobite. ‘Seaforth is with James <strong>in</strong><br />

Ireland, my Lord’, said MacKenzie. ‘It’s common knowledge.<br />

I have no time for plots. I’m done with politics. I’m happy<br />

to tend my plants and play with my grandson <strong>in</strong> my garden.<br />

I fear the revolution is a… fait accompli.’<br />

Dalrymple nodded <strong>in</strong> satisfaction and sat back, observ<strong>in</strong>g<br />

MacKenzie carefully. He returned his quill to the stand and<br />

said smugly, ‘James will never return as K<strong>in</strong>g of this country<br />

or any other. K<strong>in</strong>g William will crush the fools who support<br />

him. Your clan must accept K<strong>in</strong>g William. Everyone will<br />

accept K<strong>in</strong>g William eventually. A few clans hold out, but<br />

I will br<strong>in</strong>g them <strong>in</strong>to the fold… soon.’<br />

MacKenzie smiled ruefully. ‘I cannot say I’m happy<br />

with William as K<strong>in</strong>g. But what can I do about it? I’m too<br />

old to fight <strong>in</strong> the field. I’m content <strong>in</strong> my retirement at the<br />

Hawthorns.’<br />

He remembered the letter that had arrived earlier<br />

<strong>from</strong> a client <strong>in</strong> the Highlands, delivered clandest<strong>in</strong>ely <strong>by</strong> a<br />

MacKenzie clan agent, request<strong>in</strong>g advice on how to f<strong>in</strong>ance a<br />

son <strong>in</strong> exile and raise money to pay for muskets. Dalrymple<br />

would have loved to get his hands on the missive which was<br />

safely consigned to the flames of his fire.<br />

‘Why have you asked me here, my Lord?’ MacKenzie<br />

asked. It was time to get down to bus<strong>in</strong>ess. Dalrymple never<br />

asked to see you for purely social reasons. ‘I spend little time<br />

<strong>in</strong> the city these days. I’m th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g of sell<strong>in</strong>g my apartments.’<br />

Dalrymple rested his elbows on the desk and sighed. ‘Have<br />

a glass of w<strong>in</strong>e, MacKenzie.’ Fill<strong>in</strong>g two glasses <strong>from</strong> a bottle,<br />

he passed one to MacKenzie and drank deeply <strong>from</strong> the other.<br />


a kill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> van diemen’s land<br />

‘Let me expla<strong>in</strong> myself. You were no doubt surprised<br />

to receive my summons this morn<strong>in</strong>g. We are not men<br />

who usually share the same <strong>in</strong>terests. But these are unusual<br />

days. Political bus<strong>in</strong>ess consumes my time at the moment.<br />

The K<strong>in</strong>g, or rather his servant Portland, demands I keep<br />

him <strong>in</strong>formed about Scottish policy, day and night. The<br />

secretaries are lazy and unreliable. The K<strong>in</strong>g’s desire is to<br />

pacify Scotland and settle the church swiftly. Much bus<strong>in</strong>ess<br />

is required to achieve this end: commissioners persuaded to<br />

support the court, m<strong>in</strong>isters cajoled, fanatics kept at bay. The<br />

new Crown Officer has been dismissed. He was even more<br />

useless than your dead friend Archibald Stirl<strong>in</strong>g. I’m too busy<br />

to concern myself with <strong>in</strong>dividual crim<strong>in</strong>al cases.’<br />

Dalrymple took another sip of w<strong>in</strong>e, before rais<strong>in</strong>g his<br />

handkerchief to dab his th<strong>in</strong>, black lips. ‘I want your help,<br />

MacKenzie. There, I’ve said it. I don’t like ask<strong>in</strong>g any of your<br />

clan – <strong>in</strong>deed, any Highlander – for help. I’ve no lik<strong>in</strong>g for<br />

the Highlands. It’s a barbarous wasteland and nursery of<br />

Popery!’<br />

MacKenzie considered po<strong>in</strong>t<strong>in</strong>g out the fertility of land<br />

<strong>in</strong> Ross-shire and that only a t<strong>in</strong>y proportion of clans were<br />

Catholic, most be<strong>in</strong>g Protestant, but decided aga<strong>in</strong>st it.<br />

Dalrymple was so full of Pres<strong>by</strong>terian prejudice it would<br />

make no difference.<br />

Dalrymple cont<strong>in</strong>ued gravely. ‘There’s been a kill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong> the city this very morn<strong>in</strong>g. There’s been a kill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>Van</strong> Diemen’s <strong>Land</strong>. In a house <strong>in</strong> Cumm<strong>in</strong>g’s Court off<br />

the Lawnmarket. A merchant called Jacob Kerr has been<br />

murdered… brutally. Dr Lawtie will provide the anatomical<br />

details. Kerr was an elder <strong>in</strong> the Kirk who sat quietly on the<br />

Session. I’ve no time to exam<strong>in</strong>e the case myself, but it must<br />

be seen to be <strong>in</strong>vestigated to assuage the Pres<strong>by</strong>terians.’<br />

He stopped aga<strong>in</strong> to dr<strong>in</strong>k some w<strong>in</strong>e and then shook his<br />

head. ‘My enemies are circl<strong>in</strong>g like vultures, MacKenzie.<br />


a meet<strong>in</strong>g with the lord advocate<br />

It is jealousy of the Dalrymple family that drives them on.<br />

But mark my words. Pres<strong>by</strong>tery will be re-established <strong>in</strong><br />

Scotland. I will let noth<strong>in</strong>g disrupt progress of the legislation<br />

through Parliament. I want Kerr’s case <strong>in</strong>vestigated quickly<br />

and with little noise.’<br />

‘Surely a new Officer should consider it, my Lord’, said<br />

MacKenzie, reflect<strong>in</strong>g that the previous Crown Officer had<br />

lasted only a few months. Dalrymple spent long hours <strong>in</strong> the<br />

office and was often at his desk after midnight. Ord<strong>in</strong>ary<br />

mortals could not put up with his demands. He lived only to<br />

work and further the <strong>in</strong>terests of his family.<br />

‘I f<strong>in</strong>d it difficult to f<strong>in</strong>d a reasonable candidate’, Dalrymple<br />

replied. ‘Everyone is blemished <strong>in</strong> some way. Everyone<br />

represents some faction. Any appo<strong>in</strong>tee will displease someone.<br />

Th<strong>in</strong>gs are carefully balanced. I don’t want to upset any<br />

members of Parliament before the Kirk legislation is passed and<br />

we’ve raised supply. So, I need your help, MacKenzie – <strong>in</strong> an<br />

unofficial capacity, of course. I could not make you an official<br />

deputy. You are ta<strong>in</strong>ted <strong>by</strong> your service to the previous regime.<br />

It would ruffle too many feathers. An appo<strong>in</strong>tment on an ad<br />

hoc basis, however, provid<strong>in</strong>g authority to <strong>in</strong>vestigate a s<strong>in</strong>gle<br />

case, is politically acceptable. You will, of course, be paid.’<br />

MacKenzie took his glass and sat back, sipp<strong>in</strong>g the claret.<br />

‘I don’t need the money, my Lord’, he said.<br />

‘Consider it a way of serv<strong>in</strong>g the K<strong>in</strong>g’, added Dalrymple,<br />

a wry smile spread<strong>in</strong>g over his cold features. ‘It would help<br />

you and your family. After all, your grandson is the son of a<br />

Papist who died on the wrong side at Killiecrankie.’<br />

‘My daughter is no Papist, my Lord.’ MacKenzie had<br />

to admit it was not the best start <strong>in</strong> life for young Geordie.<br />

The boy’s father was dead and would have no op<strong>in</strong>ion on<br />

his son’s religious upbr<strong>in</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g, but his brother Seaforth, a<br />

staunch Catholic, might try to <strong>in</strong>terfere. ‘Let me th<strong>in</strong>k on the<br />

matter, my Lord.’<br />


a kill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> van diemen’s land<br />

‘I can give you a day, MacKenzie. I need the case tidied<br />

up now.’ MacKenzie f<strong>in</strong>ished his w<strong>in</strong>e and excused himself.<br />

He emerged <strong>from</strong> the Parliament House <strong>in</strong>to a bright<br />

June morn<strong>in</strong>g. He walked up the bustl<strong>in</strong>g High Street of<br />

Ed<strong>in</strong>burgh, through the teem<strong>in</strong>g Luckenbooths surround<strong>in</strong>g<br />

St Giles Kirk, towards the mass of the castle.<br />

Bus<strong>in</strong>ess was boom<strong>in</strong>g after the mayhem of the last<br />

couple of years. Merchants and lawyers, who mostly followed<br />

the Pres<strong>by</strong>terian <strong>in</strong>terest, were content with the new regime.<br />

William was backed <strong>by</strong> the wealthy merchants of Amsterdam<br />

and London. James faced years <strong>in</strong> exile, unless there was a<br />

miraculous turn of events <strong>in</strong> Ireland. Most Jacobites had<br />

already left for their estates <strong>in</strong> the country or jo<strong>in</strong>ed the old<br />

K<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> exile; only a few of the most loyal supporters still<br />

plotted <strong>in</strong> the city.<br />

MacKenzie shook his head <strong>in</strong> despair. Seaforth had,<br />

unsurpris<strong>in</strong>gly, chosen the los<strong>in</strong>g side. Fortunately, he had<br />

not committed himself one way or the other. If he had<br />

openly sided with the Jacobites, he might have faced exile<br />

and forfeiture, the Hawthorns given to some Pres<strong>by</strong>terian<br />

lackey. MacKenzie had prevaricated over provid<strong>in</strong>g money.<br />

The Jacobite cause was <strong>in</strong> dire need of funds. Rents <strong>from</strong><br />

MacKenzie lands <strong>in</strong> the north were be<strong>in</strong>g transferred to<br />

Seaforth. The expense of ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g the chief overseas was<br />

vast and caus<strong>in</strong>g disquiet among the clansfolk.<br />

James was the rightful K<strong>in</strong>g of Scotland, mused<br />

MacKenzie, but he would not take up arms to restore him.<br />

In his heart, he was conv<strong>in</strong>ced it was over for the House<br />

of Stuart. It grieved him but they had to face reality. The<br />

Stuarts had been K<strong>in</strong>gs of Scotland s<strong>in</strong>ce Robert II, but recent<br />

members of the family had proved useless monarchs, except<br />

perhaps Charles II. Maybe Scotland should accept a future<br />

under the Dutchman William. Dalrymple was determ<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

to crush Jacobitism <strong>in</strong> the Highlands. MacKenzie sighed.<br />


a meet<strong>in</strong>g with the lord advocate<br />

How had it come to this? He recalled the jubilation <strong>in</strong><br />

London on the Restoration of Charles <strong>in</strong> 1660, which he had<br />

witnessed as a young man.<br />

MacKenzie found himself <strong>in</strong> the Lawnmarket, the part<br />

of the High Street nearest the castle, where tenements rose<br />

to seven storeys on both sides. He stood at the open<strong>in</strong>g of<br />

Cockburn’s Wynd, on the north side of the street, a long,<br />

narrow vennel between the tenements, lead<strong>in</strong>g to the<br />

courtyard of Cumm<strong>in</strong>g’s Court about a hundred yards away.<br />

At the bottom he could see a black door. It was the front<br />

door of a five-storey dwell<strong>in</strong>g, or land, called <strong>Van</strong> Diemen’s<br />

<strong>Land</strong>. It was the house where Jacob Kerr had lived and died.<br />

He knew the build<strong>in</strong>g was named after a Dutch merchant<br />

called <strong>Van</strong> Diemen who had built it. <strong>Van</strong> Diemen had married<br />

a Scottish woman and come to Ed<strong>in</strong>burgh to trade with his<br />

homeland. He had died childless and the property had passed<br />

through a number of owners, while keep<strong>in</strong>g its name.<br />

MacKenzie knew little about Jacob Kerr except that<br />

he was a merchant of the middle rank, a Pres<strong>by</strong>terian<br />

and regular church goer. He knew noth<strong>in</strong>g else about<br />

his family or bus<strong>in</strong>ess. MacKenzie had never crossed the<br />

threshold of <strong>Van</strong> Diemen’s <strong>Land</strong> <strong>in</strong> his life. He turned to<br />

leave and was about to head off, dismiss<strong>in</strong>g Dalrymple’s<br />

request, when some impulse made him look down the<br />

vennel aga<strong>in</strong>.<br />

He did not have to take the case. He disliked the<br />

Dalrymple family and everyth<strong>in</strong>g they stood for. He missed<br />

his job as Clerk of the Session. He would never return to it<br />

unless there was a miracle. But he was already wonder<strong>in</strong>g<br />

what had happened beh<strong>in</strong>d the door. It crossed his m<strong>in</strong>d that<br />

Dalrymple might be us<strong>in</strong>g him for some purpose. But if he<br />

took the case, would he not be us<strong>in</strong>g Dalrymple? He had a<br />

sudden desire to be <strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong> an <strong>in</strong>vestigation aga<strong>in</strong>. The<br />

last few months s<strong>in</strong>ce Geordie’s birth had been delightful,<br />


a kill<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> van diemen’s land<br />

but it would be good to have someth<strong>in</strong>g else to th<strong>in</strong>k about.<br />

He had to admit that a murder had a magnetic pull over him.<br />

He marched up the Lawnmarket, turned right <strong>in</strong>to<br />

Merton’s Close and entered the Periwig, a dr<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g den of<br />

advocates and writers, where he asked for <strong>in</strong>k and paper.<br />

Tak<strong>in</strong>g the table at the back of the low-ceil<strong>in</strong>ged tavern where<br />

he usually sat, he wrote two short notes: one to Dalrymple<br />

accept<strong>in</strong>g the case; the other to his friend and assistant<br />

Davie Scougall, ask<strong>in</strong>g him to meet him immediately <strong>in</strong> the<br />

Lawnmarket. He called a boy to deliver the messages, sat<br />

back with satisfaction and ordered a glass of claret.<br />


<strong>Watt</strong> conjures up a pungent atmosphere of darkness<br />

and period detail. the herald<br />

A whodunnit satisfy<strong>in</strong>gly rich <strong>in</strong> unfamiliar period<br />

detail. morn<strong>in</strong>g star<br />

Pa<strong>in</strong>ts the period vividly <strong>in</strong> a gripp<strong>in</strong>g read.<br />

ed<strong>in</strong>burgh even<strong>in</strong>g news<br />

douglas watt<br />

Ed<strong>in</strong>burgh, 1690. Jacob Kerr, a wealthy city merchant and church<br />

elder, has been found stabbed to death <strong>in</strong> his own home. Is it a<br />

rout<strong>in</strong>e robbery gone wrong, as the evidence suggests?<br />

John MacKenzie is dragged <strong>from</strong> happy retirement <strong>by</strong> the<br />

irresistible pull of a murder that is not as simple as it seems. With<br />

K<strong>in</strong>g William and James Stewart about to do battle <strong>in</strong> Ireland, the<br />

Scottish people are <strong>in</strong> a frenzy of doubt and paranoia. The family<br />

who reside beh<strong>in</strong>d the mysterious walls of <strong>Van</strong> Diemen’s <strong>Land</strong> are<br />

no exception. Can MacKenzie and Scougall cut through the fog of<br />

fear to reach the truth of the matter?<br />

Check out the other books <strong>in</strong> the MacKenzie series<br />

Set <strong>in</strong> 1686 Set <strong>in</strong> 1687 Set <strong>in</strong> 1688<br />

Set <strong>in</strong> 1689<br />

Luath Press Ltd.<br />

543/2 Castlehill<br />

The Royal Mile<br />

Ed<strong>in</strong>burgh eh1 2nd<br />

uk £7.99<br />

us $14.95<br />


www.luath.co.uk<br />




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