In Death Distilled by Melinda Mullet, Abigail Logan has returned to the Scottish town of Balfour, where her uncle and guardian left her the Abbey Glen whiskey distillery, after three months of being out of the country in her role as war photojournalist. Hoping to arrive to some relaxation, Abi finds herself thrown into all sorts of drama. Her wheaten terrier, Liam, immediately digs up some bones of a skeleton with clear signs of having been bashed on the head that the archaeologists think is at least 200 years old. Next Abi helps the new vicar examine a tunnel he has found starting at the church that was used to smuggle whisky when the British tried to stop them during the early 1700s. In the process, they find the hidden grave of Angus Fletcher, an early leader in Scotland that has been thought to have been lost forever. And Abi’s best friend, Patrick, has taken a job as assistant editor of a journal on alcoholic spirits based in Edinburgh and has committed Abbey Glen to a special tour for some Japanese whiskey makers. And he did so without getting permission. Then, Abi spies some sheep being taken to slaughter only because their owner has died, so Abi saves them by purchasing them to give them a good retirement.
But the excitement moves to a whole new level when Abi gets a message from Hunter, her handyman, to go visit a new local reclusive resident. When she gets to the house, she is astonished and thrilled to discover that the new neighbor is Rory Hendricks, formerly known as Micky Dawson, the lead singer and lyricist of the former rock band The Rebels, which once rivaled such groups as Led Zeppelin in popularity, filling large amphitheaters in their heyday before breaking up twelve years earlier. Rory is scheduled to headline a charity concert to raise money for disabled veterans and asks Abi to serve as his official photographer. But even more than take photos, she is to keep her eyes and ears open because someone has been attacking people connected with the former band, and Rory is left the only man standing. Further, someone broke into the art gallery of the daughter no one has known Rory has, Summer Carmichael, stealing the three most valuable works connected to Rory and leaving a scrawled message of “In tears of rage, you’re going down,” lyrics from The Rebels’s song “Drowning.” So Rory brings Summer up to Scotland to try to keep her safe.
The next night the concert goes forward, and Abi makes a point to talk with each person involved with The Rebels, including their sound techs and former manager, Bruce, who spent five years of a ten year sentence for selling fake autographs. Then, as the opening acts perform, Abi and Rory go to his dressing room and find the message “Death awaits” painted on his wall. But Rory manages to get on stage, so Abi and Detective Michaelson helplessly watch from the side. But then the image on the background screen changes, showing Rory slowly bleeding to death with the word “Killer” written across him. Soon the lights go out, a gun resounds, and they spot one of the technical men dying from the gunshot. It seems that someone is trying to kill everyone around Rory but toying with him by not quite touching him. Abi ends up trying to solve the mystery while also protecting Rory.
I thoroughly enjoyed Death Distilled and its many creative angles. The book gives us a great flavor of Scotland as well as of the whiskey trade. We also appreciate the insight into the world of A- list rock bands. We see all the glamour but also the toil that the fame of their position brings upon them. Rory was essentially forced by his manager to avoid having contact with his daughter and her mother. When his girlfriend became pregnant while Rory was 19, he was ready to marry her to make the baby legitimate, but the manager feared that Rory’s bad boy reputation would suffer, and that would hurt the band’s sales figures.
The book has a creative plot embedded within the flavor of Scotland and the minor issues faced by Abi and the other residents. It may not have as many red herrings as many other five star books, but it still moves with interest and kept me drawn to the story of the book. The side stories had so many fun details in them that I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
I really appreciated the audio performance of Gemma Dawson in Death Distilled and enjoyed listening to the audiobook. Dawson does a good job of switching among accents, whether Scottish or different British ones. She also uses credible voices and good timing and expression.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Death Distilled. I earlier appreciated the prior book, Single Malt Murder, and this one did not disappoint in its quality as a sequel. It held plenty of pleasure and kept me fascinatedly attached to the book. I give it five stars.
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