The Jacobite rising of 1745 has begun, and the Durie family decide on a way to preserve their estate no matter which side wins. James Durie, the older brother and the titular Master of Ballantrae, joins the Jacobites, while his younger brother Henry supports King George II. James is reported dead, and Henry becomes heir to the estate. Unfortunately, it's revealed that James isn't dead at all.
Has been adapted into two films, in 1953 and 1984.
Contains examples of:
- Bilingual Backfire: Henry and Mackellar don't realise until too late that Secundra Dass speaks English.
- Cain and Abel: James and Henry.
- Faking the Dead: James does this to avoid being murdered.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Ephraim Mackellar is the narrator, but he has little to do with the actual plot.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: Henry is a much better man than James, but the townsfolk and even his own wife have a low opinion of him.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: James's attempt to fake his own death is what kills him.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Henry stabs James in a duel, and thinks he killed him. He didn't.
- Not Quite Dead: James, twice. The first time he's injured in a duel, the second time he fakes his own death. But then he dies as a result of faking his own death.
- Parental Favouritism: The Laird of Durrisdeer clearly favours James.
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Everyone thinks James is dead until he sends letters to them.
- Villain with Good Publicity: James manages to become popular everywhere he goes... for a while.