This one showed up on Meikle’s list of novels he wrote with the Scottish settings. I’ll be looking at a couple of more later on, but first I’ll be doing some postings on a couple of his Sigil and Totems novels and related short stories.
No, I’m not doing a complete Meikle series, but, between his works set in Scotland, the stories with the Seton clan, his Sigil and Totem mythos, and the S-Squad, it will be a fair chunk of his prolific output.
Review: The Road Hole Bunker Mystery, William Meikle, 2015.
There’s nothing fantastic or weird in this story. It’s a straight up private eye mystery narrated by one John Royle, a down and out private eye in St. Andrews, Scotland. He’s bored and behind on the rent when a fat, blue-haired Texan woman hires him to look for her brother. He’s disappeared when visiting the town.
Later he’ll turn up dead in the road hole bunker on the seventeenth hole of the world-famous St. Andrews golf course. He won’t be the only dead guy by story’s end.
When Royle gets set up for his murder, he figures he might have his “Bogart case”.
This isn’t a hard-boiled detective story with lots of violence though there is certainly the threat of it. But we’ll see all sides of St. Andrews from those making their money off tourists to those who work in the town’s other famous establishment, University of St. Andrews. We’ll see the town’s sleazier side. We’ll meet a dangerous Glasgow gangster and a hot dame in a low-cut red kimono. Royle has to figure just how many lies to tell Joe Boyd, an old friend from childhood but also the police detective working the murder of the Texan.
But the story’s main pleasure is its sense of place and the locals that are old friends of Royle. There’s Tom, Royle’s landlord, former greenskeeper at St. Andrews and who now runs his own private museum on the history of golf there. There’s George, a pub owner at the center of a lot of the town’s news and business, legal and otherwise. There’s Willie and Davy, two old timers who are Royle’s surrogate uncles. There’s Davy, an old friend of Royle’s looking to make his break as a reporter.
Royle is not the most diligent about immediately following up on information which might have brought affairs to a close earlier. That is realistic, but it also stretches out the story.
The history of the town and St. Andrews Old Course are central to the mystery and the satisfying way Royle and his friends wrap things up at the end.
Readers of Meikle’s occult detective Derek Adams series may recognize a couple of scenes and dialogue from the The Amulet and Rhythm and Booze entries. Royle even carries a fake ID with the name D.S. Adams.
On a personal note, I’ll add this story made me a bit nostalgic. Growing up, my family lived next door to a golf course. My brother and I spent many hours, mostly around dusk, wandering the woods around it and walking the fairways. Unlike my brother, I never picked up the golf bug.