Source: Review Copy
Publication: 7th February 2019 from Wildfire
Her mummified body is hidden in the dark corner of a basement room, a room which seems to have been left untouched for decades. A room which feels as cold as the grave.
As a rowdy demonstration makes its slow and vocal way along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Detective Chief Inspector Tony McLean’s team are on stand-by for any trouble. The newly promoted McLean is distracted, inexplicably drawn to a dead-end mews street… and a door, slightly ajar, which leads to this poor girl’s final resting place.
But how long has she been there, in her sleep of death? The answers are far from what McLean or anyone else could expect. The truth far more chilling than a simple cold case…
Roll out the barrels, put up the bunting, raise the standard, for it is declared today that James Oswald has done it again and Cold As the Grave is a brilliant, chilling, absolutely compelling read.
Tony McLean is ruing the day he allowed himself to be pushed into accepting promotion to Detective Chief Inspector. Never one to relish a desk job, he’s hemmed in by paperwork; has budgets coming out of his ears, and really just wants get back on the streets where the action is, and to give his constantly aching hip a bit of mild exercise.
So when the far right look to be bussing in trouble ahead of a refugee rights march on the Royal Mile, he can’t resist heading out to do a bit of ‘overseeing’. He thinks better on his feet and he needs to work out what to do about his relationship with his partner, Emma. Things haven’t been right for some time, but he knows that they can’t keep tip-toeing around each other for much longer.
Thus musing, he finds himself needing to keep a low profile as the anti-march protestors start to get heated and when he spies an open door in a dark mews. Following his nose he descends to a cold, dark basement where he discovers the mummified body of a child.
Yet, as the post mortem shows, this child died quite recently, and though the pathologist is unable to determine cause of death, it becomes clear that this isn’t the cold case they first thought. When it transpires that the house, owned by an ageing former rock star, also contains the HQ of a refugee charity, it’s clear to McLean that the answer to the child’s identity lies within the refugee community.
At the same time, a young Edinburgh man is reporting a young woman missing. The sister of a co-worker, this young woman is also a refugee, and it seems that her circumstances are harsh indeed.
James Oswald combines his expertise for exciting, fast paced story telling with a heart-rending exposition of the horrifying experiences of refugees, not least in our own country when they come to us, traumatised and in fear for their lives, to be treated in many cases as pariahs, or worse, to be exploited because they are so vulnerable.
This Inspector McLean novel is a rawer, more emotional experience than some and none the worse for that. Cold As The Grave also has all the hallmarks of a great Tony McLean book, with great pacing, lots of action and development and a cast of characters to warm the coldest heart.
meet her new colleague, Madame Jasmina, an enchanting night circus and the return of an age old enemy.
James Oswald has the brio to take a very dark and despairing story and with sensitivity, wrap it into an out of this world experience that melds natural justice with the best of police procedure.
Though this is perhaps the darkest McLean novel yet, it is also the one that shows the caring, warmer side of Tony McLean and offers us another side of humanity; one that shines and saves.
Verdict: Beautifully written, dark, haunting, thrilling. A real page turner.
James Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries. The first two of these, Natural Causes and The Book of Souls were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award.
Set in an Edinburgh not so different to the one we all know, Detective Inspector Tony McLean is the unlucky policeman who can see beneath the surface of ordinary criminal life to the dark, menacing evil that lurks beneath. He has also introduced the world to Detective Constable Constance ‘Con’ Fairchild, whose first outing was in the acclaimed No Time To Cry.