Review: Written In Bones by James Oswald (@SirBenfro; @MichaelJBooks)

Happy publication day to James Oswald who celebrates the release of the seventh book in the Inspector McLean series today.

32708431The Official Book Blurb

The roots of murder run deep…

When a body is found in a tree in The Meadows, Edinburgh’s scenic parkland, the forensics suggest the corpse has fallen from a great height.

Detective Inspector Tony McLean wonders whether it was an accident, or a murder designed to send a chilling message?

The dead man had led quite a life: a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin who reinvented himself as a celebrated philanthropist.

As McLean traces the victim’s journey, it takes him back to Edinburgh’s past, and through its underworld – crossing paths with some of its most dangerous and most vulnerable people.

And waiting at the end of it all, is the truth behind a crime that cuts to the very heart of the city…

I absolutely love this series. It is one of the series which I would credit with enticing me back to reading in earnest. It is certainly the series that introduced me to the works of Stuart MacBride (readers of the series will understand why) and to be honest, since I started reading again, I have never looked back. And it’s proven to be a very popular series among friends and family too. I passed the bug onto my sister, who passed it onto a friend at work, who passed it onto her husband… Well, you get my drift.

So, I was absolutely stoked to lay my hands on an ARC of this just before Christmas, but knowing I would have to wait a time for the next instalment, I tried my hardest to hold off reading. And I did. For over a month. But then I gave into temptation. And for me, with these wonderful books, it is very much like opening a tub of Pringles. Once I pop, I can’t stop.

Oh, oh, oh what a story. Following on from the events in The Damage Done, Tony McLean has been on extended leave from the force and it is his first day back when he is called out to a suspicious death. Suspicious in as much as the body is skewered on the branch of a tree, several feet up in the air, and eye witness reports about how he got there are beyond belief. As they learn more about both victim and witness, the ties extend not only to the community but to the police force. McLean’s intuition kicks in and the strange coincidences surrounding the case start to become too frequent and much too suspicious to dismiss.

Now when we pick up the story, McLean’s life has been in disarray due to his suspension. The Cold Case Unit he had been temporarily reassigned to is under threat, and he has been trying to find his stride in his rekindled personal relationship. He comes up against antagonists galore, all trying to derail his investigation for reasons unknown and all of his allies seem to be pulled away from Edinburgh, perhaps as a means to isolate him. So it is with a very strange feeling in both my heart and my head when I say that as I read, I actually found myself starting to like Duguid. Yes. Seriously. The man who used to make McLean’s life hell… Well, he’s actually a real straight talker, totally old school but against corruption and, in this book especially, the man done good.

The tension in the story is palpable. You can feel the undercurrent of corruption, and McLean’s investigations once again bring him close to uncovering the true extent of the lies and deception rife within the upper echelons of the force. There were so many times when I felt my heart was in my mouth, partly because of the way people were trying to stop or misdirect the investigation, but also because of the moments where McLean’s life is placed in absolute peril. I am not sure whether he is the luckiest or unluckiest Detective on the planet, but the little bubble of protection he finds within his home needs to come in a handy travel pack I think. Either that or he should consider a job where he can work from home.

There are some very familiar characters who resurface in this book, some good and some very, very bad. I kind of miss MacBride (he could be a muppet but he was fun) and there was a lot less of the old guard with Grumpy Bob Laird, Dalgliesh and Ritchie taking more of a back seat. That said, the characters we were introduced to were great and very well developed, even in the short window we had with them. But the pièce de résistance is the reemergence of perhaps one of McLean’s greatest antagonists, as he crosses swords once more with ‘the one that got away’. At least, that is to say… well you’ll see when you read it. And you must, must read it. It’s full of all the twists and turns you would expect from this author; the beautiful supernatural come otherworldly tones that I adore and a few other surprises to make you smile along the way. And maybe it’s fair to say our author was missing one his other fabulous creations when he wrote this as there are echoes of the tales throughout.

And then that final bombshell. Oh poor, McLean. That’s a game changer for sure. 😉

As I said, absolutely love this series and Written In Bones is yet another superb offering. I wish I could unread this and read it again for the first time. I regret racing through it in just two short evenings. To be fair I started reading at 10 pm and stayed up until 3 am eating through the first half of this book, and if it hadn’t been for that blasted thing called work, I’d have hoofed it all in one sitting. There are just some books that can do that to you, draw you in, grab hold and then not let you go, and this was most definitely one. I had to force myself to stop reading.

A massive, fire-breathing, corruption busting 5 stars from me.


My thanks to NetGalley and publishers Michael Joseph for the ARC of Written In Bones. You truly made my day. My apologies to poor author James Oswald, who I am going to stalk for a signature at the book launch in Edinburgh tonight. (Sorry, not sorry 😂 )

Written In Bones is available to purchase now from the following retailers.

Amazon UK



About the Author

billwaters_jameso__10525-smaller-683x1024James Oswald is the author of the Inspector McLean series of crime novels. The first five, Natural Causes, The Book of Souls, The Hangman’s SongDead Men’s Bones and Prayer for the Dead are available as Penguin paperbacks and ebooks. He has also written an epic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro, which is published by Penguin, as well as comic scripts and short stories.

In his spare time he runs a 350-acre livestock farm in North East Fife, where he raises pedigree Highland Cattle and New Zealand Romney Sheep.

You can follow (stalk) James Oswald at the following links:




James Oswald’s Amazon Page

The first six books in the Inspector McLean series are available now.

If you fancy a change from the Police Procedural, why not try the books from the fantasy series, The Ballad Of Sir Benfro.


6 thoughts on “Review: Written In Bones by James Oswald (@SirBenfro; @MichaelJBooks)

  1. Great review btw! Admission – I know I shouldn’t have done this but I gave it to my doctor to read first as he adores James and Stuart McBride – plus I couldn’t read it if it wasn’t in the house, so it’s a safety measure! I’ve told James about my GP being a huge fan. Can’t wait to read it now. I’m sure he won’t mind if you stalk him; he’s so nice. Sadly I can’t come through to Edinburgh, as Aye Write! is coming up and £££ – you know what it’s like. I can’t go to everything. But have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’m going to try my best 😜 It’s become a bit of a thing in my family now passing on the baton as it were with the book live being shared across friends too who all love the series now.


    1. It was a great evening and I have my next addition to the signed book club. It was worth braving the weather to get here. Hope you can make over to Bloody Scotland in September as Im back up here for that.

      Liked by 1 person

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