Source: Review copy
Publication: 17 February 2022 from Wildfire Books
My thanks to Wildfire for an advance copy for review
Two victims. Nothing connects them, except that someone buried them in the exact same way.
Seven hundred years apart.
An archaeological dig at the old South Leith parish kirkyard has turned up a mysterious body dating from around seven hundred years ago. Some suspect that this gruesome discovery is a sacrifice, placed there for a specific purpose.
Then a second body is unearthed. This victim went missing only thirty years ago – but the similarities between her death and the ancient woman’s suggest something even more disturbing.
Drawn into the investigation, Inspector McLean finds himself torn between a worrying trend of violent drug-related deaths and uncovering what truly connects these bodies. When a third body is discovered, and too close for comfort, he begins to suspect dark purpose at play – and that whoever put them there is far from finished.
It’s hard to believe that this is the 12th book in the Tony McLean series. What an amazing journey James Oswald has taken us on. And after reading this, it’s clear that Oswald has absolutely no intention of resting on his laurels.
All That Lives is a dark, intense book full of malevolent forces. Oswald creates an atmosphere of high pressure where everything feels slightly off kilter and events lead readers down a difficult and crooked path.
At the heart of all this darkness is of course Tony McLean’s nemesis, Jane Louise Saifre. When I think of her, it is as a kind of cross between an octopus and a Medusa figure. She is not someone you want to look directly in the eye because while you do, one of her tentacles is probably stealing your soul.
During the construction of a tram line at the South Leith graveyard an ancient body is uncovered. Then a second body – a woman who went missing 30 years ago – is unearthed. There are disturbing similarities between these bodies despite the fact that they died some 700 years apart.
DS Janie Harrison is to the fore in this case and it’s terrific to see her stand her ground in the face of pretty fierce pressure from above. And what’s going on in the higher echelons of the force is incredibly worrying.
Budget cuts have seriously impacted the department and McLean’s workload is huge. He is knackered, his team equally so. It’s not good news either when he hears that Chief Superintendent Gail Elmwood has returned to duty. Her horrifying injuries seem to have been healed through an innovative trial process and though her face has a plastic sheen, her intentions are far more shocking than her appearance.
Elmwood has plans – project named Tantalus – to relieve the pressure on the detective force by going into partnership with he is planning to have his team working closely in partnership with charities run by the Dee Foundation. Tantalus, you will recall, got into trouble when he tried to serve up his own son at a feast with the gods. He was punished by Zeus to forever go thirsty and hungry in Hades. His terrible punishment was set as a warning for humanity not to cross the line between mortals and gods.
Tony is horrified but Elmwood is implacable. Troubles are piling up at Tony’s door but these are as nothing when personal issues come to the fore and leave him devastated. So Janie Harrison takes point on the terrible spate of drug deaths that have begun in the capital. A devilish drug is circulating in Edinburgh and it is killing people in a terrible way. On the streets it’s called Demon Breath and its impact is devastating.
It’s a powerful concoction of death and destruction and Tony is understandably creaking under the pressure. His team have to work out how these bodies are related and where the devil drug is coming from if more deaths are to be prevented.
Something has to give and what it is shocking and unexpected. It is only the tenacity of Janie Harrison that gives the team what it needs to follow this case through to a conclusion, but not before she has to listen to Madame Rose in order to prevent another, potentially even more horrifying, death….
With darkness pervading the heart of this book, James Oswald offers up a shocking, riveting storyline that is both tension filled and deeply disturbing. There’s a sense and a force behind the evil here that feels as if it is seeping into every corner of our lives and which strangely echoes some of the worst excesses of our own political existence at the moment.
Verdict: All That Lives is an engrossing, layered and deeply chilling story with all the characters we have come to love from this series. It is shocking and heart-wrenching and its impact will reverberate for years to come. It is an absolutely unmissable book in a series that I love.
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. ALL THAT LIVES is the twelfth book in the Inspector Mclean Series. James farms Highland cows by day and writes disturbing fiction by night.