The Rat Stone Serenade
PublisherBirlinn Ltd
Date Published30 August 2016
Price£ 8.99

The Rat Stone Serenade

by Denzil Meyrick

The board of one of the world’s biggest private companies is the target of an ancient cult bent on revenge. DCI Jim Daley and DS Brian Scott must find the killers.


This is the fourth – and most improbable – thriller featuring DCI Jim Daley and his friend and former mentor DS Brian Scott, two city detectives now in the heart of the picturesque and traditional Western Scottish countryside of the Kintyre Peninsula.

This story of cultism, revenge and murder isn’t very realistic or even plausible. But it’s a hell of a good read: multi-layered and compelling, with touches of dark humour and a real feel for the people and scenery of one of the most beautiful places in the country. Once you get started, it is a cracking, if violent, story, with layer on layer of scheming, intrigue and double crossing. You won’t want to put it down!

Meyrick, brought up in Campbeltown, the Kinloch of his setting, draws heavily on his experiences as a policeman, freelance journalist and distillery manager to flesh out his background. Like many Scottish stories, it has betrayal and revenge at its heart. The MacDonalds were trapped by Covenanter General David Leslie in Dunaverty Castle in 1647 – then massacred at the insistence of the chaplain to the Marquis of Argyll, Archibald Campbell.

So much for fact. The story opens 200 years later with a local blacksmith, reputed to have ancient Druidic powers, cheated out of the site by Archibald Shannon, whose family goes on to establish one of the world’s biggest private companies.

Each Hogmanay the family-dominated board of Shannon International return to their clifftop mansion for the company’s annual meeting amid faction fights and rivalry, all under the threat of a deadly curse issued by the former owner. When an exceptional snowfall cuts off Kintyre, Daley and Scott are assigned to protect the visitors. Daley, trying to save his shattered marriage after his affair with a young DC, is contemplating early retirement. Scott is paying for a lifetime of heavy drinking with the onset of the DTs.

A child’s skeleton is found on the eponymous Rat Stone, a mysterious block which has links to the area’s Druidical past, and is assumed to be that of Archie Shannon, who disappeared 50 years previously in line with the curse. A mysterious spate of burglaries and more killings follow. A paparazzi photographer is brutally murdered, then the reporter working with him is also found dead, crucified in the ancient ‘blood eagle’.

Bodies pile up with the regularity of a Rambo movie as the Shannon boardroom battle reaches a climax. No one is quite who they seem and you will have to concentrate to even try to keep pace.

Daley’s character is less of a presence than most fictional Scottish detectives, often seemingly – and cleverly – almost in support of other police characters, particularly Scott and their new Superintendent, the English Carrie Symington, a great female addition to the cast. The police involvement is well documented, but not overdone, in a grisly tale which still finds room for moments of hope, love and affection.

Don’t try to second-guess this story. Some parts of the convoluted plot are obvious. Others strain credulity. Enjoy it for what it is – a first class, fast-moving thriller, brilliantly atmospheric, all in a setting in which the cold of the winter is not the only chill!

Reviewed 03 September 2016 by John Cleal