The Damage Done | James Oswald | 2016 | Michael Joseph | 464p | Review copy | Buy the book
DI Tony McLean has been transferred to the Sexual Crimes Unit but a botched raid on a suspected brothel doesn’t bode well for his success in the role. McLean and his team become a laughing stock – instead of a brothel they find a house full of consenting swingers (some of whom were disturbed in not the most comfortable of positions). Fortunately for McLean, one of those caught in the act was a felon who should not have been where he was, but what really disturbs McLean about the whole affair is that the party is hosted by a young woman, not actively involved herself, a lawyer, who seems to know McLean from long ago – and she is frightened. Quietly, insistently, over the coming days she reaches out to McLean for help.
But McLean’s assistance comes at a cost. McLean is thrown out of the SCU and put in charge of the Cold Case unit where his continued digging uncovers the incredible – a link between an old buried case, his first in the police force, and a new spate of shocking murders, which in turn seems to revolve around the house that Mclean raided.
The Damage Done is the sixth novel to feature Tony McLean and it is a corker. Its opening house raid grabs our attention straight away, dramatic, fast and humorous, reminding us why McLean is such good company. The story reunites Tony with past and present colleagues, moving him between units – he can’t seem to decide which of his offices to settle in – and giving him the chance to catch up on old scores while being reminded of his first case on the force. The years might have flown by but his past is catching him up.
As is usual with the McLean novels, there is a touch of the supernatural and the unknowable about the case that occupies the detective but it is not overstated at all. Instead it adds an undercurrent of menace that chills the novel, underlying some of the serious and disturbing themes of the case.
There is something very appealing about the Inspector Mclean novels. There is such a warmth to them, despite the nature of McLean’s job. Tony is a very likeable man. He lives a solitary life, with an equally solitary cat, in an enormous house that he inherited. I really enjoy the mood of this, the descriptions of life in this house. Now and again Tony does reach out and in this novel he gets perhaps a little more than he can handle with the arrival on his doorstep of an old friend’s wife who is at least nine months’ pregnant. The inevitable ensues and watching Tony manoeuver his way around a family falling in love with their new baby is such a highlight of the book. Tony’s own private life has its ups and downs and it’s fair to say that it’s only going to get more complicated. But we’re not over burdened with it.
McLean doesn’t work alone and I enjoyed the full cast of The Damage Done, including Duguid, Ritchie, MacBride and Grumpy Bob. Life goes on outside the case and I like the snippets we learn about life behind the scenes for these other characters.
The McLean books are not typical crime novels. They allow for the unlikely, the unusual and even the unreal to take place and influence life. And yet, despite that, they depict in the most fascinating realistic way the life and work of a team of Edinburgh’s busy detectives. The Damage Done is a fine addition to this wonderful series. It’s hugely atmospheric and somehow both chilly and warm at the same time. Marvellous!