Source: Review copy
Publication: 11th July 2019 from Polygon
Bloody Scotland is the highlight of my year. There’s no better place to see and listen to fabulous crime writers amidst the historic Stirling setting. And the books! Oh my goodness what books there are to treasure, to get signed, to fill up the oncoming dark and wet winter nights.
So with Bloody Scotland to look forward to, torchlight processions and all, this is an excellent time to look back at the books that have been published during the last year and to celebrate those that made the longlist for the McIlvanney Prize – for Scottish Crime Book of the Year.
I have chosen to highlight Denzil Meyrick’s book, A Breath on Dying Embers. I love Denzil’s characters and his fabulous settings alongside his clear love of authentic dialogue. so without further ado, here’s a reprise of my review.
When the luxury cruiser, hastily renamed Great Britain, berths in Kinloch harbour, the pressure is on DCI Jim Daley. The UK Government are taking a high-powered group of businessmen and women on a tour of the British Isles, golfing and seeing the sights, as part of a push for global trade. But when one of the crew goes missing, and an elderly local ornithologist disappears, will the pressure become too great?
The arrival of a face from the past sends Daley’s world into a tailspin. And the lives of the passengers and crew of SS Great Britain, as well as the country’s economic future are in jeopardy. DS Brian Scott comes to the fore, and replete with a temporary promotion, is once more – most reluctantly, in his case – back at sea.
Daley faces a life and death struggle, but is this his last throw of the dice?
Oh my. I adore Denzil Meyrick’s DCI Jim Daley books. From the very first book I was captivated by the fictional town of Kinloch and its wonderfully created settings and characters. I have binge read this series, mostly listening via audiobook (narrated by the excellent David Monteath) and loved every single one.
With A Breath on Dying Embers, I read a hard copy, but was still able to hear all those marvellous voices in my head as I read. What makes these books quite so special (and gentle reader, they are very special indeed) is the depth of characterisation. I feel as if I know all of these people, from the principal characters of D.C.I. Daley and D.S. Brian Scott, through to Annie the hotel owner and barkeep through to Hamish, the elderly fisherman whose sixth sense comes to the fore in this novel.
The settings come alive in Meyrick’s outstanding descriptive prose and there’s no lack of contemporary issues in this authentic portrayal of west coast town living.
A Breath on Dying Embers is the latest in the series. While you can of course, read it as a stand-alone, please do read the whole series from the beginning. The time will be well spent and very well rewarded, because you will come to love these characters; it is impossible to do otherwise. They are so finely drawn and acutely well observed, they feel like friends; people you know and have grown to love, for all their flaws, difficult relationships and sometimes their eccentricities.
In the latest book in the series, the Kinloch force finds itself severely tested. Chief Inspector Carrie Symington has her work cut out liaising with MI5 over security for a high profile visit by the hastily renamed #SS Great Britain to Kinloch waters, carrying a plethora of high powered foreign visitors on an important trade mission; part of the Government’s attempts to strike new trade deals with key strategic businesses abroad. As part of their wooing, the Government is showing the best of what Scotland and the UK has to offer, and Kinloch is a port of call on their itinerary.
Symington has to call on Brian Scott to step up. While Brian is equal to the task, she has no doubt, his hatred of anything to do with boats makes him a reluctant participant in this endeavour, but he is keen to show his wife, Effie, that Kinloch is a place where she can live and they be happy, and that is at the forefront of his mind as he prepares to step off solid ground and once more step gingerly onto the floating ship.
As ever, nothing goes quite as smoothly as Carrie and the Government would like and soon the police force finds itself chasing not only those behind the disappearance of a local ornithologist, but also suspected terrorists intent on inflicting serious damage to the trade delegation aboard the SS Great Britain.
In a tense and dramatic book, Symington, Daley and Scott will find themselves battling their deadliest foes yet, and with a number of complex, layered personalities to deal with, will have their work cut out to show that they are equal to the task at hand.
As ever with this series, there is more than one front to fight on, and the domestic lives of our characters is also to the fore as they track the perpetrators they are after.
Among the myriad reasons I love this series is the humour and the banter that reaches out and grasps the reader tightly in its embrace. There is an exceptional sense of warmth, love and laughter amidst a dark and gritty police procedural that makes this an authentic and compelling read and one where you care enormously what happens to each and every one of these returning characters.
There’s darkness, and there’s an awful lot of gut roaring laughter and light too, making for an exceptional read. There are themes that will strike a chord with everyone who reads it. Meyrick’s gift is to write visceral prose in a way that hits home and feels all too real and to combine it with superb, layered, plotting.
I don’t want to spoil it by revealing more, but I will honestly say that I found this book, in particular, an emotional and gut wrenching read and utterly, completely, unmissable.
If you haven’t read any of this series, what are you waiting for? If you know the series, you will find it completely transfixing; compelling and heart breaking.
Verdict. Reader, I cried. There’s no greater compliment than that from me.