In a brief snapshot scene in The Death of Remembrance, Hugh Mackie, a former soldier and veteran, reflects on what happens when there is no one left alive to care about those who suffered in war. An old Glasgow hard man, he learned about violence during the Korean War and made sure to hand it down through the generations, but the death of remembrance in the title is not simply a lamentation for the way past glories are forgotten. The narrative flits between gangland Glasgow in the 1980s and the small Argyll town of Kinloch in the present day, and there are old scores to settle before terminal illness takes its toll.
This book is part of a critically acclaimed series centred around Kinloch, which has been running for 10 years, but it reads well as a standalone story. The main characters are re-established quickly. DCI Daley is in charge, and is a mature, kind and intuitive man with an apparently inexhaustible supply of patience for the drinking problem of his sidekick, Brian Scott, who in the opening scene falls off a karaoke stage and lamps a punter in a pub. Scott is a maverick cop with a dark past, who Daley often relies on to do something reckless in order to break a case open, but now his fondness of a bevy might end his career.
The three main female characters are sharply written. Daley’s wife is a beautiful but venomous spouse, while we follow Scott’s wife, Ella, from a newly engaged East End girl, proud of her husband’s career, to rueful middle-age where she contends with his foibles with a sharp tongue. A young and ambitious Glaswegian police officer, Shreya Dhar, meanwhile, is assigned to go to Kinloch to bring modern policing methods to bear on an investigation into a hotelier who may be using the dark web and the remote location to arrange fencing, illegal immigration and drug deals.
With the narrative flipping between the police stations of the 1980s to the present day, Dhar provides a contrast in methods, even if she is referred to in Kinloch as “Yon police lassie”. Along with the two male officers and their wives, she makes up the dinner party from hell – a gathering which descends hilariously into a punch up.
While the police can’t exactly be described as shining examples of their profession, they all feel true-to-life and the criminals they are after are given compellingly believable backstories, all centred around one chilling psychopath whose reach stretches from beyond the grave. The Death of Remembrance is a properly frightening tale in parts, then, but there’s plenty of humour too, and it’s also a fascinating study of how both policing and crime have changed.
The Death of Remembrance, by Denzil Meyrick, Polygon, £8.99