All That Lives by James Oswald

Today I am delighted to join the blog tour for All That Lives by James Oswald, the twelfth instalment in the Edinburgh set Inspector McLean series. I’ve never tried to hide how much I love this series. It’s probably the series that drew me back into reading again, so you can either thank or curse Mr Oswald for my presence on your twitter timeline each morning. It’s certainly one that gave me the perfect blend of character, mystery setting and just a little bit more and I have been waiting most patiently for its release. My thanks to Emily Patience for the tour invite and to publisher Wildfire for furnishing me with a lovely Netgalley widget for that sneak peek. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 17 February 2022
Publisher: Wildfire

About the Book

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.

My Thoughts

Ahhhh. It’s a bittersweet feeling writing this review. The sweet part is that I have just read the latest book in one of my favourite crime series, complete with enhanced (at least compared to recent books) from one of my favourite characters, Grumpy Bob. The bitter part … well, I need to savour the feeling of contentment that follows the reading another brilliant foray into the world of Tony McLean and co as this is the last we’ll be seeing of him for a wee while. I know! But let’s not dwell on that. They’re all still here right now, and back with a case that sees the return of possibly McLean’s longest standing nemesis – Jane Louise Dee or Mrs Saifre as he less than affectionately calls her.

Violent deaths due to new, lethal, drugs, unmarked graves and centuries old bones, and a touch of the supernatural – this book has all the hallmarks of a classic McLean investigation and from the very beginning drew me into the sense of mystery and uneasiness that I have come to expect and love from these books. I can think of nothing worse than the fate which befalls the first ‘victim’ in this particular novel, and the urge to open a few windows and breathe in fresh air may well prove overwhelming for some. And this is before we even get to the main crux of the team’s investigation – the suspicious death of a young man who initially looks like the victim of a very vicious attack but, it turns out, may have been the master of his own fate. There is a new, highly deadly drug on the scene, but just who is behind its creation and distribution proves very challenging to pin down. Alongside this, Janie Harrison is called to a building site where an unmarked grave has been discovered. Annoyingly the ownership of the site proves equally as troublesome to pin down …

There is a kind of weariness to this book, reflected in McLean’s demeanour – and that is before his personal life takes a dramatic turn for the worse. You can see how he has been ground down by the job, the constant cuts, the politics and the constant sense of corruption and wrongdoing that hangs around certain members of the constabulary like a bad smell. Enter stage left, Detective Superintendent Gail Elmwood, with her new found camaraderie with the aforementioned Mrs Saifre, and fans of the series will have more than an inkling of just what it is that is grinding McLean’s gears. I like seeing the exploration of this side of McLeans’ nature, exacerbated as it was by a dark turn in his personal life. He has always been a character who refuses to kowtow to management demands, taking his own line of investigation no matter what the potential repercussions. And believe me, this time around, they have the potential to cost him very dearly.

Once again, Janie Harrison take a much more pivotal role in proceedings and the continued to development of her character really adds something to the story. She is every bit as sceptical as the next copper about some of the more unusual aspects of the case, but, as with anyone who spends a significant amount of time in the strange world of Inspector McLean, ready to roll with the punches. She’s really coming out of herself and proving to be a very astute and dedicated Detective Sergeant, stepping into the big shoes of Grumpy Bob as McLean’s go to partner in crime fighting.

There is a wider cast of characters, old faithfuls like Angus Cadwallader, Duguid, and Emma, as well as Mrs McCutcheon’s Cat and newcomer Cecily Slater’s cat, who are on hand to keep McLean in check when Emma can’t. Madame Rose plays a small but vital role in proceedings as always, but it falls to Janie to get to the crux of the issue and root out the real evil that is overwhelming Edinburgh, one seemingly charitable offering at a time. It did give me great pleasure to see Grumpy Bob step out from behind the desk one more time, showing us once again his canny, nature. It might have been a very different ending to the story if not for old Bob.

As ever, this is a standalone story but in truth is better read at the end of your McLean journey. So much of what happens in this book has links back to earlier novels that even though much is recapped for readers (and new Detectives to the team) throughout the book, it adds more weight if you understand the journey McLean and the team have been on to reach this point. I can’t say that this proved to be an absolute conclusion to a long standing series arc, but it certainly draws a lot of the underlying threads together, and there will be more than the odd knowing nod from those who have been there from the start.

So, yes. A bittersweet experience. Did I love it? Of course I did. What’s not to love in a story that is a police thriller with an undercurrent of the supernatural, one that features memorable characters I’ve really come to care about and that helps transport me to the darker, mystical side of a city I love too? But I am still sad. The ending to the book leaves a strange feeling – a small sense of hope, but at an unquestionable point of change. I just hope the wait for more, if it comes, is not too long.

And I’m giving it one of these because it really was just a book that ticked all my boxes. Definitely recommended.

About the Author

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, writes disturbing fiction by night.

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