Friday, August 3, 2012


by William Meikle
Black Death Books
200 pages
Review by Greg Daniel

William Meikle, by his own admission, was heavily influenced by the pulp and noir aspects of the American PI movies and fiction of the 1940s in the creation of his Midnight Eye series.  Derek Adams, the Glasgow PI featured in The Amulet and two subsequent novels, wears the mantle well, ensconced in a halo of cigarette smoke as he slides along a whisky trail waiting for a femme fatale to walk through his door.  Neither he nor the reader has to wait long as she makes her appearance on page two.

As the standard trope goes: she is trouble and he knows it, but that doesn’t stop him.  She wants him to find an amulet that was stolen from her house.  Despite her perceived lack of full disclosure, his uneasiness with the photograph of the amulet, and his misgivings about being able to uncover a stolen piece of jewelry, he, of course, takes the case.

Derek’s cynical, world weary nature and wry sense of humor echoes the acting of Bogart and the writing of Chandler as he propels himself headlong into a case that will test his resourcefulness, perseverance, and sanity.  Derek soon learns that the amulet is much more than just another ugly piece of jewelry and that before he can consider this case solved, he will gain first-hand knowledge of the Cthulu Mythos as The Big Sleep meets “At the Mountains of Madness.”

Derek’s best friend and former schoolmate provides insight and research into the origins of the amulet via expedition journals and newspaper accounts as well as moral support.  But he and the others who come into contact with the amulet do not escape unscathed.

While supernatural noir is not as unusual a subgenre as it was once, Meikle has still managed to weave a unique tale.  This can be attributed to his skill in crafting the character of Derek Adams.  Derek seems like a familiar character decked out his trench coat, cig hanging from his lips, as he visits a colorful array of characters around Glasgow.  But Derek is more than the stereotypical PI.  His emotional baggage has made him fiercely devoted to his friends and truly horrified by death.  He makes up for not being the smartest or toughest PI in the world by being bulldoggedly determined to set things right.

The other thing that separates this book from the standard fare is the city of Glasgow.  Meikle brings Glasgow to life in a way that almost makes it a character itself, very different but reminiscent of the role Calcutta played in Dan Simmons’ debut novel Song of Kali.

The Amulet moves along at a brisk pace, with Derek being directed both overtly and covertly by his femme fatale to a climax that tests the limits of the PI and his client and her husband as they battle to keep evil at bay.  Whether or not Derek can claim victory at the end, he will be forever and unequivocally changed.
I encourage you to pour yourself a couple of fingers of whisky and visit Meikle’s and Derek’s Glasgow some evening as the shadows grow long.

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