Source: Review copy
Publication: 4 November 2021
My thanks to Polygon and Denzil Meyrick for an advance copy for review
It’s 1968, and the fishermen of Kinloch are preparing to celebrate the old New Year on the twelfth of January. The annual pilgrimage to the Auld Stones is a tradition that goes back beyond memory, and young Hamish, first mate on the Girl Maggie, is chuffed that he’s been invited to this exclusive gathering – usually reserved for the most senior members of Kinloch’s fishing community.
Meanwhile, it appears that the new owners of the Firdale Hotel are intent upon turning their customers teetotal, such is the exorbitant price they are charging for whisky. Wily skipper Sandy Hoynes comes up with a plan to deliver the spirit to the thirsty villagers at a price they can afford through his connections with a local still-man.
But when the Revenue are tipped off, it looks as though Hoynes and Hamish’s mercy mission might run aground. Can the power of the Auld Stones come to their rescue, and is the reappearance of a face from Hoynes’ past a sign for good or ill?
This, for me, is the perfect Christmas present. A trip back in time to wonderful Kinloch, A Toast to the Old Stones is warm, full of humour and has all the fantastic characterisation that makes the Kinloch series so special. The novellas have carved out their own space, allowing the reader to travel back in time and meet characters who appear in the DCI Daley books, but these characters are young and naïve and learning their trade as the fishermen they are to become.
Rich and redolent of the sea, Meyrick creates a warm and wonderfully atmospheric scenario where his characters delight and entertain. This Kinloch is full on storytelling mode, where the folk tales of the past blend with the couthy characters of today to create a special warmth.
Here we are in 1968 and young Hamish is much taken with that new band, The Beatles. Neither his mother nor Skipper Sandy Hoynes can really understand it and they worry about Hamish’s proclivities. It’s not long since the events detailed in A Large Measure of Snow but it’s clear that the Girl Maggie and her crew have suffered no long lasting effects. Young Hamish is first mate and this year he is feeling very chuffed indeed to have been invited along for the very first time to celebrate the Old New Year with the established fishermen of Kinloch. It’s a singular honour, though of course he has no way of knowing it’s all part of Sandy Hoynes devilish plan….
Meyrick combines traditional storytelling including local myths and legends with a 1960’s capricious escapade that made me chuckle all the way through. This is most distinctly cosy crime; crimes in which loss of dignity is the biggest outcome, but it’s also storytelling that treats its subjects with respect. There’s something about the old traditions that fastens itself to these stories and makes you want to believe. That West Coast charm; the beautiful geographic location and history that speaks to what has gone before tells you that rites and traditions should have their rightful place in contemporary Kinloch.
Verdict: Meyrick conjures all this and more in a tale that is both heart-warming and entertaining and just perfect for reading on a cold winter’s night while you’re tucked up warm. As I said, a perfect Christmas present, this is a beautifully presented story in a fabulously attractive package.
Denzil Meyrick was educated in Argyll, then after studying politics, joined Strathclyde Police, serving in Glasgow. After being injured and developing back problems, he entered the business world, and has operated in many diverse roles, including director of a large engineering company and distillery manager, as well as owning a number of his own companies, such as a public bar and sales and marketing company. D. A. Meyrick has also worked as a freelance journalist in both print and on radio. His first novel, Whisky from Small Glasses, was published in 2012.