Written in Bones

Written by James Oswald

Review written by Keith Miles

Keith Miles is probably best recognised by readers under the pen name of Edward Marston. He writes several well-received historical mysteries spanning the 11th century through to the 19th century. His website is www.edwardmarston.com


Written in Bones
Penguin
RRP: £12.99
Released: February 23 2017
HBK

Scotland has produced an outstanding crop of crime writers in recent years and James Oswald is one of them. When Natural Causes, the first of the Detective Inspector McLean series, appeared on the scene, it signalled the arrival of an awkward, gritty, driven, single-minded character prepared to go right to the heart of darkness.

Written in Bones is the latest outing for Tony McLean. It begins when a dead body is found in a tree, having fallen from a considerable height. McLean works on the theory that he was dropped from a light aircraft or helicopter. Those near the event at the time, however, keep talking about dragons.

The corpse is that of Bill Chalmers, a former detective constablewho fell from grace, served eight years in prison then came out to do valuable work among drug addicts. In searching for the motive for the murder, McLean discovers new and disturbing aspects to the dead man’s life. He also has his usual battle with the top brass who seem determined to handicap the investigation.  When he needs the file on an unsolved murder from the Cold Case Unit, McLean finds that it’s mysteriously disappeared. And there are other examples of obstacles popping up to impede him.

The novel is particularly strong on the internal politics of the police but it’s sometimes to thedetriment of the narrative. There is a lot of discussion and speculation in the early stages and the story moves slowly. When it finally picks up speed, it bowls along and broadens out. Some readers might complain that too many scenes consist entirely of dialogue but they are all fired by McLean’s missionary zeal to solve the multiplying crimes. His tenacity carries the plot forward to a thrilling climax that makes Written in Bones a worthy edition to an excellent series.

Next one, please.

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