Once, on a winter's night many years ago, after a heavy snow, the devil passed through the Scottish fishing town of Coldhaven, leaving a trail of dark hoofprints across the streets and roofs of the sleeping town.
Michael Gardiner has lived in Coldhaven all his life, but still feels like an outsider, a blow-in. Now living in self-imposed exile out on the point, Michael feels at one with the sea-birds and the changing light of this ancient landscape - yet more distant than ever from the dark, closed community of the villagers. But that is about to change.
When Moira Birnie decides that her abusive husband is the devil and then kills herself and her two young sons, a terrible chain of events begins. Michael's infatuation with the fourteen-year-old Hazel takes him on a journey towards a defined fate, where he is forced to face his present and then, finally, his past. Having confronted his own demons he must return, walking in penance and penitence, to be reborn into a world where he was always a stranger.
Written with the exquisite clarity and power of a folktale, The Devil's Footprints is the story of a man trying to come to terms with a suspended life, and the fear, guilt and unbearable grief that mark it. Revealing what lies beneath the surface of the everyday world, John Burnside has written a novel of mysterious and terrifying beauty - as primal and thrilling as cloven hooves in the snow.