Detective Chief Inspector Jim Daley is a relative newcomer to the world of Scots crime fiction – he first appeared in 2012’s Whisky From Small Glasses – but already we have reached the seventh instalment of what is proving to be a durable and popular series.
We’re back in the fictional coastal settlement of Kinloch – think more Campbeltown than Greenock – where the local Bobbies are stressing about the impending arrival of a luxury cruise ship. The Great Britain has been requisitioned by the Royal Navy for use as a venue for a high-powered trade delegation. Big cheeses from the world of politics and business will be in attendance and security is tight. Unbeknown to the Kinloch cop shop, however, a terrorist cell based in Glasgow has been eyeing up the Great Britain as just the kind of opportunity it has been waiting for to inflict a terrible kind of revenge on those it believes to have slighted them.
If you think this sounds like a slightly far-fetched plot-line for a rural corner of Scotland, you’d be absolutely right. But given the wider genre’s continuing over-reliance on serial killers dumping corpses on industrial wasteland, credit is due to Meyrick for at least trying something new. He offers a lightness of touch which many other crime writers lack.
What also sets his books apart from the countless detective stories sagging the shelves of municipal libraries is a keen eye for the everyday realities of policing. His officers seem more relatable than the average paperback sleuth, as they routinely moan about substandard uniforms and poor quality equipment.
“I cannae understand why anyone thinks they T-shirts look smart,” quips one officer – a fair summary of Police Scotland’s current sartorial standards.
This observational skill is doubtless aided by the author’s own time as a police officer, which although long before the creation of Police Scotland, was recent enough to feel contemporary.
DCI Jim Daley may remind some readers of Jack Frost, the protagonist played by David Jason in ITV’s primetime cop show Touch Of Frost. They are both professionals – in their own way, of course – but are often waylaid by what could charitably be described as poor lifestyle choices. Daley’s rising blood pressure will eventually catch up with him in this outing.
One does wonder whether Tartan Noir fans would be accepting of a detective more in keeping with the realities of modern policing. Anyone who has observed a CID officer giving a briefing on the evening news will realise they are just as likely to be lifting weights in a soulless corporate gym as they are to be sinking whiskies.
But such issues matter less when you have an enjoyable and highly readable adventure such as this. It surely won’t be long before Daley returns for his eighth book. Chris McCall
A Breath On Dying Embers, by Denzil Meyrick, Polygon, £8.99. Denzil Meyrick is appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 18 August