Source: Review copy
Publication: 20th February 2020 from Wildfire
When a member of the Police Scotland team fails to clock-in for work, concern for her whereabouts is immediate… and the discovery of her burnt-out car in remote woodland to the south of Edinburgh sets off a desperate search for the missing woman.
Meanwhile, DCI Tony McLean and the team are preparing for a major anti-corruption operation – one which may raise the ire of more than a few powerful people in the city. Is Anya Renfrew’s disappearance a co-incidence or related to the case?
McLean’s investigations suggest that perhaps that Anya isn’t the first woman to have mysteriously vanished in these ancient hills. Once again, McLean can’t shake the feeling that there is a far greater evil at work here…
In this, the 10th Inspector Tony McLean novel, James Oswald lets his deliciously dark mind delve deep. The opening chapter plays around with the ancient Scots folklore character of Sawney Bean, a man who earned his living by ambushing travellers then murdering and eating his victims so that there was never any evidence of his crimes.
As only he can, Oswald then connects this to Operation Caterwaul (a glorious name); a top secret police operation. Tony is part of this operation, though he doesn’t know all the details, as this op is a closely guarded secret. The National Crime Agency and American Agencies are involved in investigating senior business leaders for the crimes of fraud and money laundering.
Edinburgh is in the midst of a heat wave and tempers are short, not least Tony’s who is mired in paperwork, his least favourite thing, when all he really wants to do is to get out and do some proper policing.
Then police support officer Anya Renfrew goes missing. Always reliable, and with excellent security clearance, this administrator’s disappearance creates serious concern among the Caterwaul personnel, worried that the entire operation may have been compromised.
Concern for Anya increases when her burnt-out car is found in the remote Gladhouse woods in the south of the city. Then a fire in the woods uncovers a hidden pile of human bones. This is very worrying for this is an area where women have gone missing before.
As Tony looks into Anya’s disappearance he uncovers some surprising information about a woman he’s worked alongside for years but never really knew at all.
I was drawn into this book from the start. I love the way Oswald’s mind works. Who else could combine a cannibal from Scots folk tales with Edinburgh’s dogging scene and a police operation involving technology titans? His dark mind goes darker than usual in a story that is propulsive and fascinating and which I found really hard to put down.
There’s the re-appearance too of Tony’s childhood friend from A Prayer for the Dead; Norman Bale. Norman is locked up for life in Bestingfield Secure Psychiatric Hospital, so how can he possibly know anything about Anya?
Interspersed with Operation Caterwaul and Anya’s disappearance, we are treated to more information about how Tony and his partner Emma are faring and it’s always a delight when Grumpy Bob Laird chooses to grace an investigation with his presence.
Oswald’s trademark slightly surreal investigations into dark deeds give rise to this reader’s fears that something is out there just waiting for the balance to tip in evil’s favour. Each dark discovery; each psychotic killer who leaves a malevolent discovery for McLean to find, is merely adding to the likelihood of that day coming faster.
Oswald’s has the ability to weave these complex elements together in a gripping and spell-binding tale which combines tension with well-paced writing and an overarching sense of the ancient battleground of good versus evil.
Verdict: Taut prose and excellent plotting plays on our collective fears, leading to a twisty, dark and propulsive story populated with terrific characters which is impossible to put down. Another cracking read in the Tony McLean series, which only serves to create an insatiable appetite for more!
James Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries, as well as the new DC Constance Fairchild series. James’s first two books, NATURAL CAUSES and THE BOOK OF SOULS, were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. BURY THEM DEEP is the 10th book in the Inspector McLean Series.
James farms Highland cows by day and writes disturbing fiction by night.