Wildfire | 2020 (20 February) | 464p | Review copy | Buy the book
Police Scotland has a major operation underway, Operation Caterwaul, a silly name for an operation that involves several agencies and will strike at the heart of something that is too secret to identify. All Detective Chief Inspector Tony McLean knows is that it’s big and it’s imperative that they’re not the station to bring it all crashing down. So it isn’t the best of timing when one of the most essential members of their support staff, Anya Renfrew, goes missing. Anya’s clearance is very high. The powers that be are extremely worried. McLean and his team are told to find her. But it won’t be easy, especially when they discover that Anya isn’t the first woman to have disappeared mysteriously in these ancient hills, just outside Edinburgh. The more bones they find, the more McLean worries, and then he discovers that he has an even greater reason to be afraid. Time is running out.
I love the Tony McLean series so much, not least because these books always include something a little bit strange, mysterious, perhaps even supernatural to spice things up and intensify the sense of evil. Bury Them Deep is the tenth novel in the series and the same fearful sense of foreboding, evil and the unnatural overshadows events. But not too much. That is a good reason why these novels are so successful – there are hints of the supernatural but never much more than that. The power of the imagination, of the impression of evil, is what helps to make the mood of these books so irresistibly dark. With all of the key ingredients that we expect from, and love in, a Tony McLean novel, you can rest assured that Bury Them Deep is a superb read. It also, if you choose to read it that way, works well as a stand alone novel.
Tony McLean is a fantastic character. He’s had his past traumas – and the broken bones that go with them – and he is still recovering but the major influence on his life now continues to be his relationship with his partner Emma and it is still problematic. But she has perked up lately and that is partly to do with her growing interest in forensic anthropology, which is one of the themes of the novel. There are old bones aplenty here. They are fascinating and they exist within a frightening context of folklore, legend and evil. Tony is high enough up the chain that he could delegate most things but he resists and the result is that we witness all levels of a police investigation as he leads from the front. Of course, this has always got him into trouble before. There’s no reason to think it will turn out any differently this time.
Another of the draws of this series is its depiction of Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside. Everything is so colourfully and vividly described. In Bury Them Deep, we’re given an Edinburgh enduring one of the hottest summers in living memory. McLean isn’t used to it, nor is anyone else, including the reader. The search for the woman will take everyone to their limit as the heat intensifies.
The story is a brilliant one, with just the right mix of the entirely believable and the fantastically horrible. We’re all aware that time is running out for the stolen woman and this intensifies the pace of the novel. Bury Them Deep is most certainly one of my very favourite books of the series. Tony McLean continues to intrigue me, as do his colleagues, past and present, and here he is faced by a case that tests him in ways he might not have expected. I can’t wait to see what happens to McLean next because what happens here is going to change him for sure. Excellent!