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Oswald, James - 'Dead Men's Bones'
Paperback: 480 pages (July 2014) Publisher: Penguin ISBN: 1405917091

Edinburgh's Detective Inspector Tony McLean is struggling to get over the cramp and pain from the broken leg he sustained in an accident and is having to undergo physiotherapy which he finds difficult to fit into his busy schedule. He also has to see a psychologist on a too regular basis as a result of the events described in the previous book, THE HANGMAN'S SONG, that caused him to break his leg. Then a hugely wealthy politician named Andrew Weatherley kills his wife and two daughters and then shoots himself dead. DI Tony McLean is surprised to be given such a high profile case - until he perceives what a poisoned chalice it is. Conflict emerges between those who want the truth outed and those who want everything tidied away! McLean is caught in the middle, unearths things that perhaps should have been left buried. He receives surreptitious visits from the security services at his home address and is sent photos and other evidence by them but without further explanation.

There is also another case he is involved in, in which the body of a naked man is discovered in a river and the corpse is tattooed from head to foot so much so that the skin seems almost totally covered. Who is this person and what is the reason his identity is hidden by all this ink some of which was recently applied within days of his death and would have been very painful to endure. This takes Tony off in another investigation of tattoo parlours and the like in an attempt to uncover the identity of the unknown corpse.

The plot, as in his previous story, seems to twist and turn all through the book which once started is very difficult to put down until the startling conclusion is reached. Tony McLean's subordinate detectives such as DS Ritchie and one called grumpy Bob are given more prominence. There is some gentle humour in the writing which adds to the charm of these books.

This is the fourth book in this series about Tony McLean and although this is only the second one that I've read I am really enjoying them as they remind me of Stuart MacBride and Ian Rankin. The character of Tony McLean is an antithesis of a unusual copper in that he is independently wealthy, driving a large Alfa Romeo and doesn't need to work but does so as he only inherited his money after he became a detective.

The author of these brilliantly detailed, plot driven books is unusual also in that he manages to combine writing, oddly enough, with a full-time job of sheep farming. I loved this book and his previous one also and I look forward to reading his next one and in the meantime I must try and get his first two. If you want a thoroughly enjoyable and unusual murder mystery then buy this book. Very strongly recommended.

Terry Halligan, England
July 2014

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 29/07/2014 20:42