Review: Jeremiah’s Bell

Denzil Meyrick – Jeremiah’s Bell

Published by Polygon, paperback £8.99. I received a proof copy from the publisher for review purposes.

After Denzil Meyrick ended last year’s A Breath On Dying Embers with a mighty cliff-hanger, fans will have been desperate to get their hands on Jeremiah’s Bell to see what happens next. (You can all breathe a sigh of relief, don’t worry.)

We open not too long after the end of the previous novel, and soon after there’s plenty of upheaval in the lives of Jim Daley and Brian Scott even before Meyrick stirs in rich hotelier Alice Wenger on a visit to her roots – a far cry from her expensive new American life – and the peculiar Doig family tucked away on a remote part of the peninsula. Of course it’s all connected, with tragic incidents and mysterious goings-on that keep us eagerly turning the pages. And of course there’s a dose of irreverent humour, because it’s a Meyrick novel. But these aren’t criticisms, just an acknowledgement that, eight novels into a series, there are some boxes it is necessary to tick to satisfy the long-time fan while still endeavouring to give them something new.

In terms of something new, the prologue caught my interest immediately, and the historical scenes – beautifully realised from the weather through to the visceral horrors that unfold – really set me up for the rest of the book. And when the links between past and present are revealed… well, I shall say no more other than you will be horrified and fascinated in equal measure. There’s an awful lot going on in these pages, but the overarching theme is that there’s no escaping the past, and no escaping family ties. Secrets will always out.

Meyrick’s weaving of the plot strands, and the shifts in perspective between Alice, the Doigs, the police and the locals, is deftly done. And his character work in Daley and Scott, and in particular in the relationship between their wives, is to me stronger here than in some of the previous novels in the series, which really holds the attention in the quieter moments between bouts of action.

And then, with one final disaster averted, there is something of a happy ending – unusual perhaps in a crime novel, but after the cliff-hanger of A Breath On Dying Embers perhaps we’ve earned it. And after all, while it’s summer as I’m reading Jeremiah’s Bell, in the book it’s coming up to Christmas, so a gift is appropriate.

Follow the author on Twitter at @Lochlomonden

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