John Buchan’s own favourite among his novels, in which he dealt with the hypocrisy which can lie close to the surface of apparently god-fearing respectability. Buchan set the book in the fearsome times of the first half of 17th-century Scotland, when the Church of Scotland supported the Solemn League and Covenant and unleashed a wave of cruelty and intolerance across the land in its name.
Newly-ordained minister, David Sempill, witnesses devil worship in the ‘Witch Wood’ led by his chief elder, Ephraim Caird. When the Minister tries to expose the evil, the man turns the parish against him and persuades the Presbytery to drive him from the church ‘friendless and forlorn’, by twisting Sempill’s efforts to prevent the spread of the plague as the evidence with which to condemn him. As Sempill rides away he encounters his persecutor. Taking him to the place of his devilry, Sempill watches him overtaken by madness as the Minister finds the power to face the evil and demand the man’s renunciation of the Devil.
Alasdair Hutton, 2001
Available to read at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks03/0301331h.html