The Book of Souls

"...DI Tony McLean could well be a John Rebus in the making."


Every Christmas a young woman is found murdered in Edinburgh. She is naked, washed and had her throat cut. The Christmas Killer stalked the city for ten years, claiming ten victims.

Twelve years later and the killer is murdered in prison by a fellow inmate in a targeted attack. For DI Tony McLean this is the end of a personal and difficult chapter in his life; the final victim was his fiancée Kirsty Summers. He found her body, he found the killer's torture chamber and he put the killer behind bars.

As Christmastime approaches, not a good time of the year for DI McLean, the body of a young woman, naked, washed and with her throat cut, is found. Is this the work of the Christmas killer? Was the real killer found or is there a copycat picking up the baton?

DI McLean must face demons from his past and present in order to find a killer and remain professional before the hunt consumes his sanity.

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'The Book of Souls' is James Oswald's second novel released in paperback this year and the introduction of his protagonist, DI Tony McLean, continues. In the first book, 'Natural Causes', we learned of Tony's difficult family life and troubled childhood. This time his hostile love life is played out in glorious Technicolor. There are strong echoes of John Rebus in Tony McLean; a dour Edinburgh detective, a loner who lives for the job and, although he gets results, his methods are not always popular with his superior officers. Oswald, however, has a long way to go before he reaches the heights of Ian Rankin's famous creation. While McLean's past has not been a pleasant one I feel we have learned everything about him in the first two novels and any other tragedies which may be revealed in subsequent books could descend into far-fetched melodrama. McLean's nemesis within the force is the interminably jealous DCI Duguid. We don't know much about him yet so the reason for his dislike of McLean is unclear and his constant sniping does tend to grate after a while. The supporting cast which make up McLean's team are the usual bunch of crime fiction staples; the female sidekick, the rookie and the grumpy one who has seen it all. However, what stops 'The Book of Souls' turning into a litany of clichés is the tight, fast-paced story telling of Oswald whose strong descriptive powers make you actually smell Edinburgh. James Oswald is obviously a lover of his genre; two characters are named after well-known crime fiction writers and there are nods to Rebus and Morse. Book three, 'The Hangman's Song' is released next spring and I am eagerly awaiting this next case for McLean. He is a detective with the drive and determination to keep Edinburgh safe for years to come. 'The Book of Souls' is a welcome return for DI Tony McLean who could well be a John Rebus in the making.

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