Inspector McLean Books in Order: How to read James Oswald’s series?

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Written by Scottish writer and farmer James Oswald, the Inspector McLean series is a crime series set in Edinburgh. Published since 2012, this Sunday Times bestselling mysteries series is about the investigations led by Detective Inspector Tony McLean, an unlucky policeman who can see beneath the surface of ordinary criminal life to the dark, menacing evil that lurks beneath.

How to read the Inspector McLean Series in Order?

Every entry in the Inspector McLean book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.

  1. Natural Causes (2012) – A young girl’s mutilated body is discovered in a room that has lain sealed for the last sixty years. Her remains are carefully arranged in what seems to have been a macabre ritual. For newly appointed Edinburgh Detective Inspector Tony McLean, this baffling cold case ought to be a low priority, but he is haunted by the young victim and her grisly death. Meanwhile, the city is horrified by a series of bloody killings―deaths for which there appears to be neither rhyme nor reason, and which leave Edinburgh’s police at a loss.
  2. The Book of Souls (2012) Each year for ten years, a young woman’s body was found in Edinburgh at Christmastime: naked, throat slit, body washed clean. The final victim, Kirsty Summers, was Detective Constable Tony McLean’s fiancée. But the Christmas Killer made a mistake, and McLean put an end to the brutal killing spree. It’s now twelve years later. A fellow prisoner has just murdered the incarcerated Christmas Killer. But with the arrival of the festive season comes a body. A young woman: naked, washed, her throat cut.
  3. The Hangman’s Song (2014) – The body of a man is found hanging in an empty house. To the Edinburgh police force, this is a simple suicide case. But something about the scene strikes Detective Inspector Tony McLean as being off. Days later another body is found hanging from an identical rope, with a noose tied in the identical way. McLean is convinced that these people are either being murdered or somehow coerced into taking their own lives. Then a third body is found.
  1. Dead Men’s Bones (2014) – Morag Weatherly and her two young daughters have been shot by husband Andrew, an influential politician, before he turned the gun on himself. But what would cause a rich, successful man to snap so suddenly? For Inspector Tony McLean, this apparently simple but high-profile case leads him into a world of power and privilege. And the deeper he digs, the more he realizes he’s being manipulated by shadowy factions.
  2. Prayer for the Dead (2015) – Detective Inspector Tony McLean is on the case when the search for a missing journalist uncovers 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 body is discovered in a seemingly macabre ritual of purification. But McLean knew the dead man and can’t shake off the suspicion that there is far more to this case than meets the eye.
  3. The Damage Done (2016) – Detective Inspector Tony McLean must investigate the seedy goings-on of an exclusive and secretive society catering to the rich and powerful of the city. Somehow it is linked to a particularly gruesome cold case from 20 years ago – McLean’s first case with the force.
  1. Written in Bones (2017) – A body is found in a tree in the Meadows, Edinburgh’s beautiful public park. The forensics suggest that the corpse has fallen from a height – but was it an accident or a shocking message? The dead man had led quite a life – a disgraced ex-cop turned criminal kingpin and, most recently, the head of a celebrated charity. As Tony McLean investigates, his search takes him from the city’s underworld – crossing paths with some of the most dangerous and the most vulnerable people in society – before taking him to the heart of a shadowy conspiracy stretching back years…
  2. The Gathering Dark (2018) – A truck driver loses control in central Edinburgh, ploughing into a crowded bus stop and spilling his vehicle’s toxic load. The consequences are devastating. DI Tony McLean witnesses the carnage. Taking control of the investigation, he soon realizes there is much that is deeply amiss – and everyone involved seems to have something to hide. But as McLean struggles to uncover who caused the tragedy, a greater crisis develops: the new Chief Superintendent’s son is missing, last seen in the area of the crash…
  3. Cold as the Grave (2019) – DCI McClean’s team are on patrol at a rowdy Edinburgh demonstration, when he notices an open door down a mews. On investigation, he discovers the mummified corpse of a girl inside and is drawn into the mystery of how she died.
  1. Bury Them Deep (2020) – When a member of the Police Scotland team fails to clock-in for work, concern for her whereabouts is immediate… and the discovery of her burnt-out car in remote woodland to the south of Edinburgh sets off a desperate search for the missing woman. Meanwhile, DCI Tony McLean and the team are preparing for a major anti-corruption operation – one which may raise the ire of more than a few powerful people in the city. Is Anya Renfrew’s disappearance a co-incidence or related to the case?
  2. What Will Burn (2021) – The charred remains of an elderly woman are discovered in a burned-out gamekeeper’s cottage, hidden away in woodland to the west of Edinburgh. Clearly no accidental fire, Detective Inspector Tony McLean suspects that neither is this simply a grim arson attack. There is far more to the victim than her humble surroundings might suggest, and something ritualistic to her horrific murder.
  3. All That Lives (2022) – n archaeological dig at the old South Leith parish kirkyard has turned up a mysterious body dating from around 700 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 30 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.

  1. For Our Sins (2024) – The partial collapse of a disused Edinburgh church reveals a dead body in the rubble, his head badly smashed by falling masonry. Soon identified as an old ex-con – Kenny Morgan – his death is put down to a heart attack and deemed non-suspicious. Tony McLean is approached by a notorious crime lord who suggests the police should be looking into Morgan’s death more closely. Despite struggling with his recent retirement, he is reluctant to involve himself. But when a second man is found dead in another disused church, his forehead branded with a cross, this time it is clearly murder.

If you like the Inspector McLean reading order, you may also want to see our DI Callanach reading order or our Tom Thorne reading order. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.

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