RogerBW's Blog

The Damage Done, James Oswald 17 April 2016

2016 supernatural mystery, sixth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. A police raid following a tip-off about a brothel goes wrong: there's sex being had, but it all seems to have been consenting swingers, except for one registered sex offender. Then people start dying.

Another good series entry, but the overall development between books has slowed down. One would think that, by now, McLean would be ready to accept that there's magical nastiness about, even though he obviously wouldn't be talking about it to his colleagues; instead, he keeps on blundering on until he has his nose rubbed once more in what's really happening.

Duguid laughed, a sound so unusual it took McLean a moment to realise the superintendent wasn't having a seizure.

Indeed, it's clear early on just how an old case from McLean's early days on the force is connected to the present day, and McLean himself should probably realise it rather before he does. The pace is pretty slow for much of the book, only really getting moving in the last third or so, and the ending is disappointingly abrupt, with many concerns left unresolved, particularly what seems to be a fairly central conspiracy with tentacles in some very high places. This has been part of Oswald's style before, of course, but I certainly hope the next volume wraps up some of the loose ends.

While the supernatural element is mostly lightly handled, the serious crime fan who wants a non-magical mystery will certainly be disappointed; the explanations and resolutions only make sense on a supernatural level. More important, though, is the development of McLean himself: some old friends reappear unexpectedly, and the process of old enemies seeming not so terrible as they were painted continues from the previous book. (As usual with Oswald, one could start here, but I felt I got more by having met these people before and seeing how things had shifted from book to book.) There are plenty of new enemies to replace them, mind.

The intensity is perhaps slightly lower than in previous books, but this is still highly enjoyable, and getting away from the conventional deluded killer opens several possibilities for the future of the series.

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