RogerBW's Blog

All That Lives, James Oswald 28 December 2022

2021 supernatural mystery in modern Edinburgh, twelfth in Oswald's Inspector McLean series. People are overdosing on a strange new drug, and long-buried bodies are being dug up on construction sites.

There's the same pacing problem as before: lots of going along with not much happening, and then suddenly everything starts fitting together and there's progress and action. But this time that moment happens when McLean is temporarily taken out of the story, which deprives him of the more enjoyable side of things.

There's also a very blatant conflict of interest involving a senior police officer which gets only minor grumbling from the good guys; I could believe it if someone even higher decided to squash any complaints, but this is the sort of blatant breaking of rules that still generates widespread outrage even if nothing is done about it any more.

Apart from that the story's enjoyable: a long-running menace returns, as usual being very much on the side of Doing Good, but McLean knows that this particular villain always has a goal in mind beyond the obvious one. Some of McLean's entourage of junior detectives start to get to where McLean himself was a few books ago, where they really can't deny that there's magic in the world even if they don't understand it. Some of the practicalities of the evil plan seem, well, at best hard to arrange, at worst simply impossible; some of them are just stupid (if you can arrange plausible-looking accidents for inconvenient people, why would you kill them in a distinctive way that'll link them to an ongoing investigation?).

Also Emma gets to suffer again to make life harder for McLean. I confess I'm getting a bit bored with this.

I'd love to believe this forms a conclusion to a series arc, but Oswald's fooled me before. I'd really like to see some actual progress in people's understanding rather than a return to status quo with a few more scars. I suspect Oswald's trying to open this up into more of a group series rather than McLean as the sole lead character, with Janie Harrison getting a lot of the heavy lifting this time, and I'm interested to see where that goes.

I continue to enjoy this series, but this wasn't one of the high points for me.

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Previous in series: What Will Burn | Series: Inspector McLean

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