February 24

Prayer For The Dead – James Oswald

prayer for the dead 2The fifth novel in the bestselling Inspector McLean series by Sunday Times bestselling author James Oswald.

‘Are you ready to be reborn?’

The search for a missing journalist is called off as a body is found at the scene of a carefully staged murder.

In a sealed chamber, deep in the heart of Gilmerton Cove, a mysterious network of caves and passages sprawling beneath Edinburgh, the victim has undergone a macabre ritual of purification.

Inspector Tony McLean knew the dead man, and can’t shake off the suspicion that there is far more to this case than meets the eye. The baffling lack of forensics at the crime scene seems impossible. But it is not the only thing about this case that McLean will find beyond belief.

Teamed with the most unlikely and unwelcome of allies, he must track down a killer driven by the darkest compulsions, who will answer only to a higher power…

‘Are you ready for the mysteries to be revealed?’

My thanks to Penguin/Michael Joseph and Netgalley for my review copy


Jump back 11 months to 24th March 2014 when, after a bit of hesitation, I bit the bullet and posted my first review on my blog. I had been toying with the idea of blogging for some time so decided to write a review of the book I had finished earlier that day – it had been a great story from an author I’d not read before. Natural Causes by James Oswald.

7 months later, it’s October 2014. I am officially a ‘fan’ of Mr Oswald’s Tony McLean series and I am sat in Coatbridge Library where, as part of the North Lanarkshire Encounters series, James Oswald is visiting to discuss his books. The evening opened with a reading from the opening chapter of Prayer For The Dead – a debut read as the final edit had only just been confirmed. It was a treat and a pleasure to hear an extract from an unpublished novel and just 4 months later I finally found out what followed! Added bonus from that night was that James Oswald was fabulous and had us hanging on his every word for well over an hour of uninterrupted anecdotes and readings.

But to the book…

Prayer for the Dead is the 5th outing for Tony McLean and this is another stellar read in a series that has maintained a high standard of entertainment and thrills throughout all the books.

I am always pleased to revisit recurring characters in the books I read and I very much enjoy the team that assemble alongside McLean. Grumpy Bob returns as does Jane Macintyre, Stuart MacBride and even Madam Rose is back. The relationships between the characters is a key element to my enjoyment and there is a genuine feel of a ‘team among the police characters. McLean is supportive of MacBride, tolerant of Grumpy Bob and collectively they grumble over the senior officers who frequently appear to be inept.

More unusual is the ongoing relationship between Madam Rose and Mclean, particularly given how events unfold during Prayer For The Dead. Their friendship is taken in a very unexpected direction and we get to see Rose in a very different light – another nice touch.

The most important element of a crime thriller is that there is an engaging crime to be solved. Very much so I am pleased to report. A few unnatural deaths have occurred around Edinburgh, there does not appear to be any obvious connection yet the cruel manner of the deaths and the short intervals between the murders leads McLean to believe they are the work of one individual.

With no clues to pursue the police are very much in the dark as to how they may track down the culprit (assuming they ARE just looking for one person). With no meaningful progress being made, McLean finds himself distracted by other cases: particularly when the property developers who are trying to get him to sell his home turn up dead and their connection to McLean is investigated by London’s Serious Crime team.

I very much enjoyed Prayer For The Dead, it is a cracking murder mystery with some nasty deaths to squirm over and a sinister murderer who keeps several steps ahead of McLean et al. Fans of James Oswald will not be disappointed with the latest novel…except when it ends and you realise that the next book is ages away!


Prayer For The Dead is available now from Penguin/Michael Joseph and is in all good bookshops, online and in many a supermarket too.

On a final note – I am constantly amused that there is a character called Stuart MacBride in James Oswald’s books. This amusement increased tenfold when I read the apology that Mr Oswald offered to the real Mr MacBride in the author notes at the end of the book. Perhaps I am just easily amused?

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October 8

North Lanarkshire Encounters : James Oswald

During October North Lanarkshire are running the Encounters Festival. This is a cultural festival with over 100 events bringing together the best of literature, art, music, drama, dance and a whole lot more – these events are showcased all over North Lanarkshire.

North Lanarkshire is my home and it is a joy to me that events such as Encounters take place here – we are not generally considered to be the most glamorous of areas!

Today I was delighted to be able to attend an evening with James Oswald, author of the Inspector McLean novels and the fantasy saga The Ballad of Sir Benfro. Hosted at Coatbridge Library on a cold dark night (we all agreed on this point) Mr Oswald entertained with readings and stories of his long road to publication.

Despite his concerns that he had been waffling, James Oswald tells a fascinating story. It transpires that he is good friends with fellow crime writer Stuart MacBride and the pair forged an early working partnership writing comic books (partly illustrated by MacBride) which sadly did not catapult them to the success they had envisaged. Although this was clearly a great loss to the Graphic Novel industry it has been to crime fiction’s gain.

The evening opened with James Oswald reading from The Hangman’s Song. When your opening gambit includes a corpse, purification and the phrase ‘diarrhoea bursting’ you know you have captured your audience’s attention. I was captivated for the next hour as we learned how the character of Tony McLean evolved prior to his full debut in Natural Causes and it is exciting to think there are other Inspector McLean cameos out there waiting to be found.

Mr Oswald also outlined how his writing career suffered peaks and troughs building up to the whirlwind of publications that began with Natural Causes hitting Amazon (as a self-published novel) in 2012; and has since seen 7 published books in just a 2 year period. I got the impression on more than one occasion that even the author was a little startled by the speed at which new books were hitting the shelves.

Dividing his time between writing and farming James Oswald seems to have a busy schedule ahead. He indicated that his writing commitments are fully booked until 2017, however, he is keen to rework some of his early writing which he believes will appeal to the YA readers. Patience may be required for those stories though.

A highlight was the second reading of the evening – a debut reading from the not-yet-published 5th McLean novel which I hope I correctly recall to be Prayer for the Dead. As the final draft was only confirmed today we were treated to the first public reading of the opening chapter. I already want to read what comes next.

Sadly the evening ended too soon and I had to head home (with arms full of signed paperbacks). I had a great night in good company and am already thumbing through the Encounters brochure to book my next event….Back to Coatbridge for Magic Den with my 4 year old!

You can follow James Oswald on Twitter where he is @sirbenfro

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