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This novel of obsession, passion and death occupies the borderlands between the supernatural novels of Scott, Hogg and Stevenson, and the psychological novels of Rendall and Highsmith.
An unknown woman walks out of a border mist with an old satchel over her shoulder. Spied on by the factor of the estate, she enters a cottage that has been locked and empty for more than twenty years since the violent deaths of its previous inhabitants. The woman, who will claim to be the daughter of the dead couple, is carrying a set of antique plates that tell the story of adultery, betrayal and murder implicit in the most famous of the sixteenth century Border Ballads: The Twa Corbies. She believes these plates can tell her the truth both about what happened here in the past and what she is to do now. Who is this powerful woman intent on revenge? It is possible she doesn’t know the truth about herself as she works to ensnare the son and heir of the estate, break the factor to her will, seduce the young man’s fiancee, and harry the estate owner, Sim Elliot to an early death. This novel’s genius is to marry the atmosphere of the Border Ballads – stark, poetic and timeless – with a story at once ancient and contemporary, told through the highly charged and erotic Corbie Plates. Written in prose of extraordinary power and beauty, When They Lay Bare is a gripping, dreamlike narrative, at the heart of which is a burning love story and mystery.
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