RogerBW's Blog

Bury Them Deep, James Oswald 25 October 2021

2020 supernatural mystery in modern Edinburgh, tenth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. A police administrative assistant doesn't turn up for work, just as a major cross-jurisdictional investigation is kicking off. Did she tip off the targets and vanish, or is something more sinister going on?

There's a slight trend away from the blatantly supernatural here; or perhaps McLean is coming to terms with it and not reacting quite as strongly, or perhaps Oswald just wants to make sure this series remains anchored in the real world. As usual there's nothing here which is explicitly impossible in non-magical reality, but of course beliefs in the supernatural form an important part of people's mindsets and motivations.

There is some hint of progress after the treading-water of the previous book; perhaps McLean is actually getting somewhere in his relationship with his girlfriend, and at the very least we don't have the pattern of the recurring figure of evil that's been in too many of the recent books in this series. There's decent mundane investigation, putting clues together in a sensible way, even if I felt it took McLean perhaps a bit too long to reach certain conclusions.

We also get the return of a character arrested and confined at the end of Prayer for the Dead, book 5 of this series, who seems to know altogether too much about what's going on (what with being locked up in a secure psychiatric hospital and all). That character's motivations are quite important, so I'd recommend that this book not be read out of sequence.

It's unfortunate that elements of the criminality were similar to those in a Stuart MacBride book I read a couple of years ago, so a mundane explanation for parts of what was going on was very obvious. It's more unfortunate that we get cuts away to the suffering of the victim, which while they don't give away major plot points do leave the reader rather ahead of the police in the first few chapters. (Though at least, as a change from other authors who do this, they aren't prurient.) On the other hand there's solid connection to local folklore, picking at the details of the traditional story of Sawney Bean to try to work out what sort of events might have led to the invention of such a legend.

A series entry rather than a Major Development, I feel, but still good.

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Previous in series: Cold as the Grave | Series: Inspector McLean

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