Natural Causes – James Oswald

Detective Inspector Tony McLean pops into a crime scene on his way home (as you do) and sees the victim, butchered, and with one of his organs stuffed in his mouth. It is not a pleasant sight. Almost as bad as the sight and sound of DCI Duguid, the incompetent detective we would all be hissing and booing if this were pantomime, and whose case this is.

Then another body turns up: a young girl who appears to have been murdered as part of some ritual, and buried out of sight for decades. This is McLean’s case, and one that sets him off on a collision course with the baddies.

Set in contemporary Edinburgh, the book is reminiscent of the Aberdeen set Stuart MacBride novels, complete with matching blood, guts, gore and body count. (One day, somebody is going to do a serious study of the Bodies Per Page that crime authors turn out.) However, it’s neither as sharp, nor as well written. There are passages that give the impression of the author rushing to get them down before he forgets what is coming out of his imagination. And there are also other parts showing more care and attention – and perhaps more editorial love – that are much, much better. But it’s a stretch to say that in overall quality this comes close to MacBride or Rankin.

On the plus side, the story is interesting and has a different type of finale from most crime books. (However, to disclose anymore would possibly ruin it for most readers.)

I wanted to like this, but overall was disappointed. Unless I see reviews from people I trust suggesting the writing has improved, no more DI Tony Maclean for me.