Meyrick makes his U.S. debut with The Last Witness, a crime drama set in the small Scottish town of Kinloch. Five years after crime boss James Machie (JayMac) is assassinated in the back of an ambulance, a couple in Witness Protection in Australia are murdered, the ripples from that incident reaching all the way to Kinloch. Detective Chief Inspector Jim Daley is given information that suggests the infamous Machie is not only still alive but returning to take revenge on those who helped destroy a criminal empire that stretched from Glasgow to Exeter.
Both Daley and Detective Sergeant Brian Scott are on Machie’s list, as is a former gang member now in Witness Protection, Frank MacDougall, but closer to home--actually only a few miles from Kinloch with his wife and two troublesome adult children. Though MacDougall is living under another identity, Daley’s boss, Superintendent John Donald, warns that Machie may have inside information that will lead him right to his intended prey. Then the killings begin in earnest, MacDougall’s relatives first, Machie moving closer to his ultimate target. Ghost or not, Machie has returned for revenge.
As Daley and Scott consider how best to address this new threat, their job is made more difficult by the arrival of Superintendent Donald on the scene.
An overbearing man who manages to let the troops do the hard work, he swoops in at the last moment to seize the glory. Donald deftly inserts himself into the current situation, clearly with another agenda and a burden to Daley, who chafes at Donald’s interference and constant ridicule of DS Brian Scott.
The plot unfolds with the measured violence of carefully planned incidents, murders and random attacks accelerating as Machie draws near to his final target. But the new spate of violence spreads, including an explosion at Daley’s house and an audacious murder at Donald’s office, police scrambling to get both scenes under control. Though the action never lets up, the true stars of the thriller are the residents of Kinloch, from a Greek chorus of bar regulars to assorted individuals who offer unsolicited advice to Daley, the history of the Machie gang well known to everyone. (Adding local color, Meyrick often has particular characters speak in the dialect of the region, the musical rhythm of their voices wound throughout the tale.)
There are plenty of complications, both personal and professional, before the drama comes to an end. Circumstances force Daley to consider a major change in his future; and Scott makes an impulsive decision that may end his career in law enforcement. The momentum of deadly events increases as “the ghost of Machie” moves with impunity to exact his revenge. There is a plot within a plot, not to mention unfinished business, Meyrick preparing the landscape for the next adventure as Detective Chief Inspector James Daley adds his name to the memorable protagonists of Scottish crime fiction.