Denzil Meyrick

(Polygon, £8.99)

Since our last visit to Kinloch, the Kintyre town policed by the formidable DCI Daley has been deluged in drugs. There have been four overdoses in the space of a fortnight, one fatal. Older residents complain that the pubs feel empty because the town’s young people are more interested in drugs than alcohol, and agree that a pall seems to have fallen over the town.

Into this rather depressed climate comes a group of students from the Oxford University Mountaineering Club, who are in Kinloch to practise for an assault on Everest. This privileged bunch includes Nathan Farringdon, an arrogant PPE student who likes to tease his less well-off girlfriend Delphine by calling her “Tracy”, and gives voice to violent fantasies about people who annoy him, which he insists is just him “keeping it real”.

“We should pick up some Scotch books while we’re here,” says Delphine, to which Nathan retorts, “No, thanks. Weary old detectives with stressful marriages and drink problems? It’s a stereotype, Tracy.”

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Author Meyrick’s self-aware meta-jibe is on target. While his deputy, Brian Scott, is learning to live without drink, Jim Daley and his wife are grimly staying together for their son’s sake. The weary Daley has also developed agonising back pains. Ironically, considering the influx of drugs into his town, he immediately feels the benefit of the painkillers he’s prescribed, enjoying a buoyancy and “soporific calm” that’s most unlike him. He’s beginning to understand why people Choose Drugs and it’s scaring him a little.

But there’s no time to worry about his growing dependence on painkillers now. One of the Oxford party, Salazar Brandt, is found lying in the street with two fingers severed. Then Nathan Farringdon is abducted. It’s not long before Salazar’s father, Werner, a mega-rich “fixer for various Eastern European states”, blazes in on his palatial yacht, closely followed by Nathan’s equally dodgy dad. One can assume that these jet-setters will be less than overawed by the rural Scottish coppers investigating their sons’ misfortunes. The stage is set for a confrontation between a global industrialist and a lowly Scots detective.

But what does any of this have to do with the intriguing opening chapter, set 11 years earlier, in which two children kill their abusive father and then stab a policewoman? Or the man with two missing fingers and revenge on his mind? Or the woman of “badly preserved middle age” who has just cast two fingers into the sea? What madness have the local drug dealers got mixed up in?

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As always, Meyrick keeps the plot grounded in the local community, giving a generous amount of space to the inhabitants of Kinloch, particularly old fisherman Hamish, who is considering quitting his lifelong home for Perthshire. Daley and Scott’s bantering double act, unfortunately, is starting to feel overdone. Scott’s continual malapropisms, misunderstandings and misjudged wisecracks disrupt the flow of many a scene, and an entire chapter detailing the pair’s misadventures on a boat could have been excised with no real loss.

Daley admits that it’s the most “unfathomable” of his many cases, and Meyrick certainly keeps us guessing. Indeed, with only 20 out of 400 pages left to go, I was doubtful that he could satisfactorily resolve it. But all Meyrick’s strengths and hallmarks are present and correct: the twists, down-to-earth characters and especially the unsettling sense of lawlessness transgressing on a vulnerable community and leaving behind a lingering shadow. No Sweet Sorrow won’t disappoint the series’ fans, and it whets the appetite for DCI Daley’s forthcoming TV debut with Rory McCann in the starring role.