RogerBW's Blog

The Gathering Dark, James Oswald 15 September 2020

2018 supernatural mystery in modern Edinburgh, eighth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. A truck driver loses control of his vehicle in the middle of Edinburgh, killing twenty people as it turns out that his cargo really wasn't what it said on the manifest.

This is good stuff; Oswald may not be reaching for new modes of storytelling, but he's mastered the balance between the supernatural and the mundane that gives this series its distinct flavour.

And yet things do change, and this isn't just a repetition of the previous books with a different crime. For once, McLean has a competent boss who's effective at insulating him from pressures from above, and actually listens to his suggestions rather than dismissing them just because they're his. (It won't last, of course.) He's still unable to delegate, and I'd have liked to see a bit of progress on that front, but this book does at least introduce a therapist who actually seems to be competent. Meanwhile although there are still supernatural threats there isn't the direct temptation of McLean that there sometimes has been before, which came over as frankly clumsy.

In some ways, although the crime is a larger one than in some of the previous books, this feels like a step back from the suggestion of an overall conspiracy in high places, dealing more with McLean and his workaholic tendencies (people now like or at least respect him at work, but his pregnant girlfriend would rather he get home a little earlier). A dark ending feels unearned and gratuitous ("what would be the worst thing I could hit him with at this point") but things are left open.

But apart from that specific point, this is a fine continuation of the series; I look forward to the next, though I'd still like to see more of the ongoing book-to-book plot.

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

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