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...
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Burnside does darkness in prose the way Leonardo did enigmatic smiles.. The Devil's Footsteps is convincing, occasionally disturbing and ultimately comforting - Herald
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 Times
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 turnout - Guardian
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 - Financial Times
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' - Times Literary Supplement
As always, Burnside writes with an almost preternatural acuity. His descriptions are little masterpieces of concision... a chilly, stark and unforgettable fable - Scotland on Sunday
Burnside's dark lyricism gives the ordinary surfaces of life a sinister geometry and his startling images cling to the imagination - Sunday Times
Part of the charm of [Burnside's] writing comes from its appeal to people's longing, in this atheistical age, for the miraculous, for grace, for forgiveness... Burnside has a new collection of poems, Gift Songs, which echoes St Augustine and T S Eliot. It works well alongside the novel, exploring how a writer puts experience into language, how language paradoxically shapes experience, how a poet must strive to express the seemingly unsayable - Independent
Burnside is a writer of great skill and subtlety... As befits a poet of Burnside's considerable reputation, both the inner and outer landscapes are beautifully realised and the novel has the resonant simplicity of the folklore from which it is drawn - Time Out
Undeniably entertaining throughout - Sunday Telegraph
[An] engaging and well-written novel, which reads almost as a piece of folklore - Big Issue
John Burnside has published seven works of fiction and eleven works of poetry, including The Asylum Ward, which won the 2000 Whitbread Poetry Award. His latest collection, Black Cat Bone, won the TS Eliot Prize in 2012. His Selected Poems was published in 2006, alongside his memoir, A Lie About My Father, which was the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year and the Scottish Arts Council Non-Fiction Book of the Year. The second volume of his memoir, Waking Up In Toytown, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2010. A Summer of Drowning was shortlisted for the 2011 Costa Novel Award.