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on 26 July 2012
James Oswald's first foray into crime fiction, Natural Causes, has become a bona fide word-of-mouth hit. With over 100,000 downloads in a couple of months it dominated the Kindle free chart and received rave reviews. That all of this was achieved with no advertising campaign and a minimal online presence is testament to the quality of Oswald's work. Now he has released his second Inspector McLean novel, The Book of Souls.

Set six months on from the events of Natural Causes it finds McLean gradually coming to terms with the murder of his fiancée, not moving on but accepting the hole in his life. When Anderson - the Christmas Killer, responsible for her death - is himself killed in prison by a fellow inmate, it seems as if the demons can finally be put to rest. However, within hours of the funeral a woman's body is found, left in a culvert, bearing all the hallmarks of an Anderson victim, and McLean is faced with the prospect of a copycat continuing the man's work.

Meanwhile decommissioned factories around Edinburgh are burning down. Ten and counting, each locked up tighter than Fort Knox and stripped of combustible materials. The fire officer is at a loss as to the cause, but they keep burning and people keep dying. Are the construction companies developing the sites responsible? Or is something more sinister at work? Witnesses give strange accounts, akin to spontaneous combustion, like the buildings wanted to die. But that's just dementia and alcohol talking, surely.

As more young women turn up dead the pressure is on McLean from all angles. His boss needs a result, his psychiatrist wants to see a catharsis, and an elderly monk with some very strange ideas about a missing text from Anderson's shop, The Book of Souls, wants MacLean to understand that he is dealing with an ancient evil which can consume anyone who reads it. Our hero brushes the old man's theory aside and tries to concentrate on the facts of the case; what other explanation could there be but a copycat drawing inspiration from a high profile serial killer? Then McLean starts seeing Anderson on the streets of Edinburgh and the book builds to a genuinely shocking denouement.

Successfully weaving supernatural elements into a police procedural is a tall order and Oswald gets the balance exactly right with The Book of Souls, giving little glimpses behind the veil, just enough to make sure you're never comfortable about the outcome. As a straight crime novel it works perfectly. We have an engaging central detective in McLean - damaged but determined to survive - and a team of well-defined officers around him and plenty of sparky internal politics. The pace is fierce, the plotting tight and there's not a slack word anywhere.

Put aside any reservations you may have about self-published authors, The Book of Souls is as good as, and in fact better than, much of what the major houses have on offer. I'll be amazed if James Oswald doesn't find himself being courted by them very soon.
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on 6 May 2014
Having recently been on holiday I noted on the shelf this book, as I had already bought Natural causes. So I sat down and read it. Unfortunately this is simply a re working of the first novel and gives all the plot away from the first. In addition, the second girlfriend also gets 'compromised' but not quite as finally as the first one. ( Likely.......... I don't think so ) The unreasonable Chief inspector continues (I presume) to act like weasily uniformed idiot from Endeavour on the TV and the ongoing feud continues unabated and equally ridiculously and as such is totally unrealistic.
Yes there is an end, but we are left with unanswered questions all over the place and unexplained loose connections with the other crimes he is supposed to have solved at the same time.
Central to the plot is an alleged supernatural book and we learn later a ghost who helps Mc lean track it , I think !!
Detective fiction in my view has to be grounded in believeability and facts, and sadly this falls well short of anything vaguely resembling real life. Crime fiction it is not, by any stretch of generousity.
I will not be reading anymore and now, not even the first one !!
It gets 2 stars as it is well written but Mr Oswald really needs to get some decent story lines under his belt before he tries again.
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on 6 July 2012
It might have been the exotic foreign locations that kept me reading long after my eyes begged me to rest, but it was more likely the gripping storyline that pulled me along. I really wanted to know the outcome.

I often suspect nearly everyone of being the killer, until more evidence is revealed, but this time I struggled. In desperation I even considered Dagwood's constant meddling was for a more sinister reason than his sheer incompetence and jealousy. Lucky I wasn't a policeman then.

The characters are becoming real people for me and I feel I can see them as they go about their working lives. This can cause some disappointments if the series is ever televised, but so few are that it probably won't matter. What's for certain is that I'm really looking forward to episode three.
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on 20 October 2012
McLean is a Detective Inspector working in Edinburgh. Ten years ago, his girlfriend was killed by Anderson, a serial killer that he subsequently caught; the man has been in jail ever since. But now Anderson has died and it seems that someone is copying the methods he used; and Mclean is trying to uncover what is happening before anyone else loses their life.

This is a really good novel; a mixture of fantasy in a very realistic, grim and gritty storyline. The characters of the police officers show them to be human beings with frailties that they have to overcome. It shows the reality of modern police work; and there is a great deal of sympathy for the work they have to do in often very trying circumstances. The whole novel is very well put together and the pace is just right for the type of storyline.

If I were to be very picky, I would highlight one minor flaw; courts in the UK do not use gavels! This is something that is often seen in American dramas and many writers make the mistake of thinking this represents all legal proceedings. But overall, this story has a superb plot, some great writing, fully rounded character development and a couple of interesting twists to keep the reader engaged throughout. This book might even make the basis of a really good TV drama.

I would definitely look out for more by this author.
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on 24 July 2012
Bought this for Kindle after reading Natural Causes, another Inspector McLean crime/mystery/thriller. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I like McLean as a character and like the sort of supernatural element to the stories.
would make great TV or film. Thanks for a great read.Hopefully MrOswald will have time and inclination to write some more.
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on 27 December 2014
This is a multi review of a guilty pleasure. Inspector McLean novels are very entertaining and full of character, first is Edinburgh real streets and fictional ones and the inhabitants of this city, the scottish element of language, CSI on steroids, and the police department the inspector loves and hates, all make for a real treat especially if you know this ancient metropolis old and new streets.
McLean is a very likeable character, obsessed and persecuted by his superiors and the power that be in the city, political and darker ones, he has no financial needs and is more dangerous and obsessed than most police characters, do not get too close to him death walks by his side with no mercy for any one.
This cases are not your everyday procedural faire but all tainted with a twist of the occult, it really should not work but it does and is a great deal of fun to jump into this world. you could read any of this stories on their own, as a matter of fact I sartet from the second book not knowing it was a series, it was just as much fun. Now I would not recommend to read this in a lonly large house, while the wind makes noise, you will begin by hearing voices and the creaking of the floor will increase as the clock approached midnight, apart from that a great read any other time.
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on 16 September 2012
Having read the author's other Inspector McLean novel, Natural Causes, I was keen to see if this would be as enjoayable. It was.

The recurring themes do not become boring - you could scream in frustration at McLean's dealings with his superior - Charles Duguid. You want to lamp the guy for McLean!!! The themes of loss, culpability and guilt at any attempt to move forward are believable and well written. I enjoy reading books where, at the end, I am left thinking that I'd like to have a drink with the main characters. This book achieved that.

I hope that this helps you make a decision about buying the book. I'm glad I bought it.
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on 9 August 2012
Bought this after reading Natural Causes which I liked a lot. Possibly a bit better but it's just well written, I live in Edinburgh so I know a lot of the places. Good characters, good plot, storyline, twists in the tale (sic) etc. So, that'll be recommended then...!
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on 28 June 2016
I read 'Natural Causes', the first book in the Inspector McLean series more than 2 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it - I found it both exciting and well-written. I decided I would buy the next book in the series, but for some reason it has taken me a while to do so.
I was not disappointed with 'The Book of Souls', In 'Natural Causes', writer James Oswald provides some hints that McLean had experienced a dark past, and we now discover what this is: several years ago his girlfriend was abducted, raped and murdered by a serial killer known by the media as 'the Christmas Killer'. Although McLean was successful in bringing the killer to justice, 10 years later, following the death in prison of 'the Christmas Killer', as series of copy-cat murders begins.
Set in Edinburgh, 'The Book of Souls' is an exciting story which should appeal to anyone who likes British crime thrillers. I shan't wait so long this time before buying the next book in the series.
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on 16 January 2015
Last year I read 'Natural Causes' the first in this series. I bought 'The Book of Souls' and set it aside as a Christmas read. It is a sequel to 'Natural Causes' and therefore best to read the books in order. I like Inspector Tony McLean, the central character of this series. He is a 30-something, somewhat diffident, self critical individual but an excellent detective. Orphaned as a child, reared by his grandmother and is still single.

The 'Christmas Killer' was a seller of antique books in Edinburgh. He also raped and murdered one young woman every Christmas over years until he was caught by Tony McLean as related in 'Natural Causes'. This novel opens with the burial in Aberdeen of the 'Christmas Killer' following his death in prison. He is hardly cold in his grave until the body of a young woman is discovered in Edinburgh. She has been raped, her throat cut, and she is found naked, tethered in a stream under a bridge. All of these are characteristic marks of the work of the 'Christmas Killer'.

As news of this murder breaks the press and others begin to question whether the right man was convicted of the previous crimes or is this a copycat killer. One thing is different however, the Christmas Killer killed once a year, this murderer kills frequently and as the death toll mounts Tony McLean comes under increasing pressure. His firey, competitive, conflict with superior office Duguid ('Dagwood') reaches new depths and he suffers a major personal loss. Two characters come into focus quite early on as potential murderers and in the end one of them proves to be the killer but there is a lot of action before the final reveal.

'The Book of Souls' from which this novel takes its name is an ancient 'magical' book which is claimed to read and take over those who take it up, inculcating its evil cult into their soul. That element of the supernatural on which the story relies is a bit hard to swallow, but only if you take on board the explanation given for the book. I see no place in detective fiction for 'supernatural' explanations of crime motivation or resolution but I think this book stays just the right side of that line. Acceptance of the 'supernatural' explanation is not critical to the motivation and resolution of these murders.

A decent sequel to 'Natural Causes'.
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