The key incidents in the novel occur in the year leading up to Gideon’s sudden disappearance from Monimaskit in January 2004.
The turning point in Gideon’s life is his discovery of the standing stone in Keldo Woods in December 2002. This sets in motion a chain of events that ends with his dead body being found on Ben Alder in late 2004.
In December 2002, while out running in Keldo Woods, Gideon discovers a huge pagan standing stone in a clearing in the middle of the forest:
looming in the mist like a great tooth in a mouth full of smoke"
However, in the 14 years that he had been running this route he had never seen the stone before and it seems that it has mysteriously appeared out of nowhere.
I saw the Stone, and nothing was the same again"
The discovery has a profound impact on Gideon. He becomes obsessed by the origins and the meaning behind the stone. He is unable to stop thinking about it and these thoughts, which
lay on his mind like a dead weight, disturb his sleep and distract him from his duties as a minister.
He develops an affinity with the stone. He feels comfortable and safe around the stone and he is soothed by it. He compares the stone to
an old friend waiting for me and becomes
protective of it. He later discovers that its origins are supernatural when the Devil informs him that he had put it there
to keep myself amused.
He is initially reluctant to tell others about his amazing discovery as he predicts that people will assume he is mentally ill. Eventually he decides to tell people that he can trust, including John and Elsie Moffat and Catherine Craigie. But no-one believes him. When he attempts to photograph the stone, the pictures do not develop. John and Elsie begin to question his sanity and this leads to deterioration in their friendship.