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. 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 Moira's teenage daughter takes him on a journey towards a defined fate, where he is forced to face his present and then, finally, his past...
Burnside does darkness in prose the way Leonardo did enigmatic smiles.. The Devil's Footsteps is convincing, occasionally disturbing and ultimately comforting
A spare, bewitching, beautifully written book... Burnside nimbly delineates the border where the actual and illusory meet: on both sides he finds dark, flinty human truths
The Devil's Footprints is a classic tale with an old-fashioned, gripping plot. But it is also helplessly good at the things that Burnside loves best: geography, the neighbours, the way people's lives go, and the way people's other, secret lives turn out
Both this novel and Gift Songs are superb achievements. To be both a poet and a novelist is highly unusual. To write so outstandingly well in both genres is a rarity indeed
His is a devouring eloquence, unfazed by generic difference and widely admired... what happens on almost every page is absorbing... It can be said of John Burnside's novel what was said by this journal at their outset: that they are the work of an "extraordinarily good writer"