Empty Nets and Promises – A brand new Kinloch Novella from Denzil Meyrick!

Meyrick, DenzilToday a brand new novella from one of Scotland’s top crime writers is being released as an exclusive eBook. Denzil Meyrick returns to Kinloch, this time set in long before the emergence of Scotland’s biggest small town detective!

It’s July 1968, and Kinloch’s fishermen are in trouble. Redoubtable fishing-boat skipper Sandy Hoynes has his daughter’s wedding to pay for – but it seems the that the fish have disappeared! He and the crew of the Girl Maggie come to the conclusion that a new-fangled supersonic jet which is being tested in the skies over Kinloch is scaring off the herring.

First mate Hamish, who we first met in the D.C.I. Daley novels, comes up with a cunning plan to bring the laws of nature back into balance. But as the wily crew go about their work, little do they know that they face the forces of law and order in the shape of a vindictive Fishery Officer, an
Exciseman who suspects Hoynes of smuggling illicit whisky, and the local police sergeant who is about to become Hoynes’ new son-in-law.

Meyrick takes us back to the halcyon days of light-hearted Scottish fiction, following in the footsteps of Compton Mackenzie and Neil Munro, with hilarious encounters involving ghostly pipers, the US Navy and even some Russian trawlermen.

empty nets


Sandy Hoynes took his seat at the head of the table. Since he’d called the meeting, he reserved the right to chair proceedings. By his side, his first mate Hamish took a sip of his whisky and grimaced. ‘I’m no’ jeest sure whoot distillery this came fae, but they’ve a lot tae learn aboot the art of making a good dram, and no mistake. I’ve cleaned my kitchen floor wae mair appetising fare.’

‘Whoot dae you expect for two shillings a heid?’ replied Hoynes. ‘In any case, we’re no’ here for the whisky.’ He tapped the side of his glass with the stem of his pipe, and soon the room came to order. Though there were only thirty seats around the table, as many again stood leaning on the backs of chairs, looking expectantly at Hoynes.

‘Can I make a point of order before we start?’ said an old man sporting a cavernous yellow Sou’wester despite being indoors. Spare flesh hung from his throat beneath a sparse grey beard, and His voice was rasping and weak, though his dark eyes were keen.

‘Aye, you can that, Johnny,’ replied Hoynes with a sigh.

‘I’m no’ sure that you’re the right man tae be chairing this august body of mariners. I’m the auldest skipper in the fleet, and as such the honour should be mine.’

‘Well, if you’re so old and wise, why didn’t you call a meeting yourself?’ piped up Hamish in defence of his shipmate.

‘Och, Hamish, but you’re a loyal wee dog, so you are. Your faither must be proud, looking down and seeing that you’ve replaced him wae Sandy Hoynes. The heavenly tears will be spilling doon his face, I’ve nae doubt. It’s jeest a pity he couldna keep a hauld o’ his own boat, then you’d be a skipper in your ain right noo.’

‘Don’t worry, Johnny,’ intervened Hoynes. ‘If he’s looking tae replace his great-great-grandfaither, I’m certain sure he’ll be at your door in jig time. Noo,’ he changed the subject quickly, not giving the old man time to upset Hamish further, ‘we all know whoot a perilous position we’re in wae regards tae the fish – or lack o’ them, mair accurately.’ There was a murmur of agreement around the room. ‘The question is: why is it happening, and whoot can we dae aboot it?’

‘My mother says it’s tae dae wae the telly and radio, and suchlike,’ offered a tall, thin youth in a black pea jacket. ‘She reckons the signals is fair going through the fish and sending them off in the wrong directions – you know, confusing the poor buggers.’

‘Aye, aye. Noo, I can see that being a valid notion. If they’re as confused as me when I listen tae thon pop music, I’m quite sure the buggers are driven tae distraction. But somehow, I canna think she has the right of it there, Wullie.’

‘How no’?’

‘Well, I’ve seen many things in my life – once you’ve been at the mercy o’ a German U-boat, the rest o’ the world seems a gentler place – but I’ve yet tae see a fish showing any interest in the television. And even if they had, it’s unlikely they’d get a decent signal doon there in the depths.’

Amidst the chuckles, Hamish said, ‘You’re right, Sandy. My poor mother gets nothing but interference, an’ she’s only at the top end o’ the Glebe Row.’


You can purchase the eBook here: Empty Nets and Promises

Happy reading!

The Birlinn Team

An extract from 1588: A Calendar of Crime, book two – Whitsunday

Earlier this year we launched a brand new eBook series by Shirley McKay, a quintet of Hew Cullan mysteries entitled 1588: A Calendar of Crime. Last week saw the publication of book two in the series, Whitsunday – a gripping tale of murder, corruption and witchcraft. In this extract from the book, an unfortunate group of teachers and students are horrified to discover the body of a Lord Justice in the grounds of St. Leonard’s college. Before long, Hew Cullan is reluctantly dragged into the ensuing melee of investigation and accusation. But will he get to bottom of this gruesome case in time to save the man wrongfully accused of the murder? There’s only one way to find out…

Whitsunday‘In St Leonard’s College on the South Street of St Andrews, a boy of fourteen lay half the night awake. His name was Robin Grubb, and he was the smallest of the poor scholar clerks, who paid for their degrees by completing menial tasks. It was Robin’s turn on Tuesdays to ring the bell to call the college from its sleep, to light the fires and fetch the water from the well, and introduce his colleagues briskly to a day which they were more inclined to take their time to meet. Robin was a country boy, and natural instinct told him when he ought to rise. And yet, on Tuesday last, his country sense had failed. He had overslept. It was already a quarter to six when the sun had streaked into the dust of his room and spilled on his white face to wake him, and it was six o’clock before the bell was rung. The shame of it engulfed him now, and kept him from his sleep. For when he closed his eyes he could hear again the censure of the college principal, magnificent, benign, and measured in reproof. He had not called Robin to account for his fault, nor shown his disapproval of him in a word or look. Instead, he had preached a sermon against sloth, taking as his theme ‘the sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold, therefore shall he beg in harvest’, and hot blood had flown to fill Robin’s cheeks, as surely as though he had slapped them.

Tonight there was no moon, and Robin could not quell, through the dim dead hours, the fear that the daylight somehow might escape him. He left his bed at last to look out on the darkness where the lanterns hung, hoping for a glimpse of the college clock. He gasped at what he saw, rubbing at his eyes, uncertain for a moment if he was awake.

The wind of Robin’s gasp, blowing through his dreams, caused the fellow student who shared a bed with him to mutter in his sleep, turning on his back and flinging out a foot, beyond the blanket’s grip. It was only this, a foot more stout and ominous than either of his own, that stamped on Robin’s will to rush across and wake him. He gathered up his breeks about his slender hips, and flimsily protected, tiptoed from the room.

Shirley McKay

He paused at the door of the regent, Robert Black, believing it was safest to report to him. Robert was in charge of the third year class. He had been a regent a dozen years or more, without promotion to professor or a living at the kirk, and nothing could surprise him in this weary world. His most withering reproach was a cynical disdain. He was also quite sharp in his wits, once the whiff of a crisis had prised him awake. This had been tested the previous term, when the snuff of a candle, carelessly flicked, had threatened to burn them alive in their beds.

Robin gave a knock, and when there was no answer entered Robert’s room. The master was asleep in a truckle bed. It was rumoured at the college that the masters dreamt in Latin, save for at St Mary’s, where they dreamt in Greek. Robin did not choose to put this to the test, for though the students were constrained to speak Latin at all times, it felt to him a leaden and unwieldy instrument. He could read it well enough – it was for that reason that the minister of his parish kirk had recommended him to the university – but he found it cumbersome and foreign on his tongue. It lacked the sense of urgency that was wanted here – how could he be adamant, fishing for a verb? And so he spoke in Scots. ‘Sir, sir, ye maun wake up now, sir,’ lifting up the sheet to pull at Robert’s shirt. And Robert Black confirmed his intuitions were correct, for he sat bolt upright, wild-eyed and bright as a ghost in a tale, and answered him at once.

‘What is the matter, child?’

Words in no language were adequate enough. ‘Ye maun come an’ look.’ Robin tugged at him. ‘Is that no the gentleman that was here the day?’

The window to the chamber opened to the south. Robert Black looked out. ‘Upon my soul,’ he said, ‘I believe it is.’

‘He is, ah, he is—’

Robert answered gently, ‘I can see that too. You did well to wake me. And I would like to think you have shown no one else.’

‘Wha would I show? They are all asleep.’

‘That is to the good. But you must fetch the principal.’

‘Must I?’ Robin said.

‘Certainly you must. Run and wake him now. I will deal with this.’

The boy set off reluctantly, while the master dressed. And Robert kept an eye on the dancer in the square, who did not seem to know or care that he was watched.

The dance was grave and strange, the dancer with his head inclined, as though he were attuning to a distant sound, too rare and faint a melody to touch the common ear. His trunk and neck were still, the movement of his feet at first quite slow and stately, turned to skip and lilt, to sway upon the ball, and finally to leap, spinning in the air with a speed and grace surprising in a man so fleshly in his form, light upon the toes that did not miss a beat. The slender limbs that bore the full force of his gravity maintained his bulk aloft, and held it proud and stern, as Atlas bore the weight upon him of the world. The dancer entranced, as though he cast a spell. The more, since he was dressed in not a stitch of clothes.

The regent Robert Black made his way outside and approached the dancer, holding out in front of him his folded scholar’s gown. ‘Your honour, are you well? The night air is cold. Will you take my robe?’

The dancer paused his flight, and turned to stare at him. His eyes were dazed and dark. The principal appeared, in his shirt and pantofills, with little Robin Grubb close upon his heels. ‘How now, my lord,’ he said. ‘This will not do at all.’

The dancer held their gaze, and did not seem to hear. He answered not a word, but as his dance was paused, it seemed as though the sound to which he harked had stopped, the music that had worked him coming to a close, and there and then, he dropped, lifeless as a puppet broken at the strings, reflecting in the shimmer of his sightless eyes the sliver of a light that he would not see again.’


Guest blog from Shirley McKay to announce publication of ‘Candlemas’

At the beginning of this month we published a blog to announce the new series by Shirley McKay 1588: A Calendar of Crime featuring Hew Cullan, to celebrate its launch we have a guest blog from the author herself to explain a little more about the series.

1588: A Calendar of Crime:

Shirley McKay1588 is inspired by the old almanacs, with their prognostications, frequently of doom. At a time when all was governed by the elements, this year in particular was a portentous one: a partial eclipse of the sun and two total lunar eclipses, staining the March sky blood red, while the gathering storm of the Spanish Armada, threatening to eclipse the English way of life, cast its long shadow over Scotland too.

Hew CullanFor Hew Cullan and his friends in St Andrews, the high days of the calendar acquire a deadly resonance. Murder will out, ensuring no one here will have a quiet life. There are five separate stories, one for each of the four Scottish term days –Candlemas in February, Whitsunday in May, Lammas in August and November’s Martinmas – with a fifth in December for Yule. At Candlemas, a candlemaker’s lifeblood ebbs away. At a Whitsunday visit, havoc is unleashed, and at the fair at Lammastide, love’s young dream is lost. A Hallowmas ghost reappears, in the course of the Martinmas term, while the keeping of Christmas is doomed, in the last tolling bells of the Yule. No comfort to be found in the rhythms of the year as portents are played out.
Candlemas for blogChronologically, 1588: A Calendar of Crime follows Queen & Country, and familiar characters appear. For Hew Cullan fans, the stories are designed to reward careful reading of the earlier books, but for those new to the series, each one should stand alone, and I hope present a satisfying mystery. I’m hugely excited about the ebook publication of the first story, Candlemas: the ebook format suits the episodic nature of the whole, following the pattern of the quarter days. But I’m excited too about the print edition of the compilation – with a cover promising to be truly beautiful – later on this year. This is a new departure for me, and crafting five complete and self-contained short mysteries, loosely interlinked, is proving both a challenge and a joy.

The eBook is available now form all good online retailers.