The Rat Stone Serenade

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

The fourth novel in the DCI Jim Daley series by Denzil Meyrick, THE RAT STONE SERENADE is set, as always, around the rural town of Kinloch on Scotland's West Coast. A place that is not unused to cold, wet weather, although the monumental snow storm that covers the landscape in this outing is a little more unusual - because of the heaviness of the snow, and the length of the storm itself. This might not stop DCI Jim Daley; his trusty sidekick DS Brian Scott; Daley's off and on-again love interest PC Mary Dunn and their new boss, when they are called upon to investigate some truly baffling goings on, but it does certainly slow them down.

As always, there's a hefty component of the personal in this novel. Jim Daley is back with his wife, and their baby son James, and Mary Dunn has moved on with a new boyfriend. Daley is planning his resignation from the police force - he's had enough of the darkness and the worst of humanity. Their new boss is also new to the area, and a bit of a character in her own right, and she'd prefer it if Daley stayed on, as would DS Brian Scott. Although in this outing Scott is really battling with demons bought on by his excessive drinking - to the point where he's haunted by the spectre of a young boy - the son of the Shannon family, gone missing from the house on the clifftop many years ago, whose bones may have just been discovered on a nearby pagan altar.

Everything in this novel revolves around the Shannon family, their house on the clifftop that they return to yearly for their family company's AGM, the past that got the family to this point, and the secrets they are holding onto. There's a pagan element to the historical elements, as well as the current day situation, as a photographer and then the journalist he was working with are found dead - with some of the elements of those deaths being decidedly weird and ritualistic. The weather here is used to create a typical locked room scenario, where Daley, his new boss, and their small local team are inside the killing zone, with outside help unable to get to them. The threat is an odd one - local / ritualistic / focused on the family and their business interests, so it could be somebody who lives there, or somebody the Shannon's have imported in their own travelling circus.

I listened to this novel rather than read it and it's certainly possible to keep track of the many layered plot here - with the historical aspects woven into the current day action. Whilst I've always admired this narrator, in this instance, the accent deployed for the local vicar (supposedly Australian) was more than enough to make me desperate for him to be an early victim - or in the end - the guilty party. Mind you, I wasn't 100% convinced by those in use for the American characters interwoven here as well - but to an Australian's ear - well... there is no way any Australian sounds like this. In the end whenever the Vicar appeared I did not care what he was up to - too busy wishing him out of my hearing.

THE RAT STONE SERENADE sees the love lives of Jim Daley and Mary Dunn get worse or better, depending upon your perspective, and Brian Scott's drinking is hitting crisis point. With touches of woo woo (unless you want to put that down to the DDT's) the plot is twisty and complicated, with past and present bought to bear, although to be honest, not too hard to fathom once the hauls of some local thieving are identified. All in all though, this is a nicely engaging series, the new boss (Carrie Symington) is a welcome addition to the ensemble cast, and even with the gruesomeness of the deaths in this one, and a bit of daft police-jep (for a very nice change mostly male!), (and that god-awful accent) it was an entertaining, if not slightly way out there, listen.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

It’s December, and the Shannon family are returning home to their clifftop mansion near Kinloch for their annual AGM. Shannon International is one of the world’s biggest private companies, with tendrils reaching around the globe in computing, banking and mineral resourcing, and it has brought untold wealth and privilege to the family. However, a century ago Archibald Shannon stole the land upon which he built their home - and his descendants have been cursed ever since. 

When heavy snow cuts off Kintyre, DCI Jim Daley and DS Brian Scott are assigned to protect their illustrious visitors. As an ancient society emerges from the blizzards, and its creation, the Rat Stone, reveals grisly secrets, ghosts of the past come to haunt the Shannons. As the curse decrees, death is coming - but for whom and from what?

Review The Rat Stone Serenade
Karen Chisholm
Thursday, September 5, 2019

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