“A Breath on Dying Embers” by Denzil Meyrick is the latest in the DCI Daley thriller series. Set around the fictional settlement of Kinloch, in western Scotland, the story revolves around the luxury cruise ship Great Britain, which moors in Kinloch harbour. Kinloch is one stop of a tour of high-powered international delegates to the UK. They are on board touring the country, golfing and sightseeing as part of a UK Government trade mission.
Policing in this part of Scotland is not geared up for dealing with any large-scale operations, but, within hours of the Great Britain's arrival, one of the ship’s crew members vanishes and a local birdwatcher goes missing, stretching local police resources to breaking point. And when events take a more sinister turn and then DCI Daley falls ill on duty, its down the DS Brian Scott to hold the fort. “A Breath on Dying Embers” proceeds at a fast pace, with additional pitfalls emerging to challenge the depleted team as the core strands of the story come together. Scott, with a fear of being on the water, finds himself putting to sea to try and solve not just one, but two crimes. The reader is left wondering if he’s up to the job and whether it’s the end of the road for DCI Daley, whose health becomes a real cause for concern.
Characterisation in the book is extremely well delivered. The loud-mouthed, somewhat comedic, Scott seems an unlikely replacement for the likeable, dependable Daley, even if only temporarily. The relationship between Scott and his long-suffering wife, Ella, adds humour and lightness through the darker moments of the story. In contrast, the return of Daley’s ex, Liz, and his young son to Kinloch only serves to add tension. Local colour is added by a cast of interesting residents, whose far from simple lives seem at odds with the picture postcard place they inhabit. Then there is Chief Superintendent Symington, young, female and seemingly an odd fit for the location, but she is proactive and effective and has the respect of her team.
“A Breath on Dying Embers” is a great read and one which delivers what it sets out to do admirably. The reader gets a great sense of the setting, the characters and sufficient insight into the criminal elements of the story to be drawn in and to look forward to a satisfying ending.