The best summer readingExplore now

Our recommended summer 2024 crime fiction Explore now

Inspector McLean books in order

Looking for James Oswald’s Inspector McLean books in order? Never fear – we’re here to help!

James Oswald‘s gripping crime thriller series has been compared to the work of Ian Rankin, Peter James and Val McDermid. Originally a self-published author, James’s first Detective Inspector Tony McLean title, Natural Causes, was an overnight success and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Since then, he’s gone on to become one of the best authors of Tartan Noir around.

If you haven’t discovered Edinburgh’s DI McLean yet, it’s about time you did.

James Oswald’s Inspector McLean books in order:

Natural Causes by James Oswald

1. Natural Causes (2012)

A young girl’s mutilated body is discovered in a sealed room. Her remains are carefully arranged, in what seems to have been a cruel and macabre ritual, which appears to have taken place over 60 years ago. 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 which leave Edinburgh’s police at a loss. McLean is convinced that these deaths are somehow connected to the terrible ceremonial killing of the girl, all those years ago. It is an irrational, almost supernatural theory. And one which will lead McLean closer to the heart of a terrifying and ancient evil.

The Book of Souls by James Oswald

2. The Book of Souls (2012)

Every year for ten years, a young woman’s body was found in Edinburgh at Christmas time: naked, throat slit, body washed clean. Ten years, ten women. The final victim, Kirsty Summers, was Detective Constable Tony McLean’s fiancée. But the Christmas Killer made a mistake. In a cellar under a shop, McLean found a torture chamber and put an end to the brutal killing spree.

Twelve years later, and 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. Is this a copycat killer? Was the wrong man behind bars all this time? Or is there a more sinister, frightening explanation?

The Hangman's Song by James Oswald

3. The Hangman’s Song (2014)

A young man is found hanging by a rope in his Edinburgh home. A simple, sad suicide – but McLean is puzzled by the curious suicide note. A second hanged man and another strange note hint at a sinister pattern. The discovery of a third convinces McLean of malicious intent. Something terrifying stalks the city streets, and bringing it to justice may destroy all he holds dear.

Investigating a brutal prostitution and human trafficking ring, McLean struggles to find time to link the two suicides. But the discovery of a third convinces him of malicious intent. Digging deeper, McLean finds answers much closer to home than he expects. Something terrifying stalks the city streets, and bringing it to justice may destroy all he holds dear.

Dead Men's Bones by James Oswald

4. 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 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. Under pressure to wrap up the case, McLean instead seeks to uncover layers of truth – putting the lives of everyone he cares about at risk.

Prayer for the Dead by James Oswald

5. Prayer For The Dead (2015)

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.

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.

The Damage Done by James Oswald

6. The Damage Done (2016)

When a police raid in Edinburgh goes horribly wrong, the only silver lining for McLean is a discovery that could lead to a long-lost girl from his early days on the beat. Haunted by the mystery of what happened to her, McLean begins to dig into a case he thought long buried. But the shadows of the past are soon eclipsed by crimes in the present as a series of strange and gruesome deaths shock the city.

As McLean’s investigation draws him ever deeper into the upper echelons of Edinburgh society, it will not only be his career on the line – but his life as well.

Written in Bones by James Oswald

7. 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 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.

The Gathering Dark by James Oswald

8. 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 realises 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 second crisis develops: the new Chief Superintendent’s son is missing, last seen in the area of the crash…

Cold as the Grave by James Oswald

9. Cold as the Grave (2019)

Her lifeless body is hidden in the dark corner of a basement room, a room which seems to have been left untouched for decades. A room which feels as cold as the grave.

As a rowdy demonstration makes its slow and vocal way along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Detective Chief Inspector Tony McLean’s team are on stand-by for any trouble. The newly promoted McLean is distracted, inexplicably drawn to a dead-end mews street… and a door, slightly ajar, which leads to this poor girl’s final resting place.

But how long has she been there, in her sleep of death? The answers are far from what McLean or anyone else could expect. The truth far more chilling than a simple cold case…

Bury Them Deep by James Oswald

10. 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?

McLean’s investigations suggest that perhaps that Anya isn’t the first woman to have mysteriously vanished in these ancient hills. Once again, McLean can’t shake the feeling that there is a far greater evil at work here…

What Will Burn by James Oswald

11. What Will Burn (2021)

The charred remains of an elderly woman are discovered in a burned-out game-keepers 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.

Nor will it be the only case of death by fire that Tony and his team will be faced with. This is only the beginning, and with such evil clouding the air, Tony begins to wonder what else will burn…

All That Lives by James Oswald

12. All That Lives (2022)

An archaeological dig at the old South Leith parish kirkyard has turned up a mysterious body dating from around seven hundred 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 thirty 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. When a third body is discovered, and too close for comfort, he begins to suspect dark purpose at play – and that whoever put them there is far from finished.

For Our Sins by James Oswald

13. 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.

There’s a killer stalking the streets of Edinburgh. Is it time for McLean to get back to doing what he does

Have you read any of James’s Inspector McLean books? Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!

Books like James Oswald’s Inspector McLean:


    I have listened to most of the DCI McLean books and thoroughly enjoy them. I was especially impressed when I wrote to the author, because I had difficulty understanding the ending of one of The Hangman’s Song, and he responded.
    I really enjoy all the characters, not forgetting Mrs. McCutcheon’s cat. I’m happy that Tony’s private life doesn’t detract from the cases, too often authors get bogged down with too much detail surrounding their heroes. I used to enjoy Grace until his wife became more important than the crime that needed solving.
    The supernatural aspect doesn’t phase me at all, especially as McClean is such a sceptic in spite of everything. I do feel that the Emma character is dragging him down, but we’ll see what happens. Definitely recommend.

    I have read all of James Oswald’s books thus far. Very good writer, great characters and plots. Looking forward to the next release.

    These books are so very readable. Love all the characters and the cats. Gripping plots and scenes that stick in the imagination. Very enjoyable frisson of the supernatural. Bring on the next one please Mr Oswald.

    Love all these books. Can’t wait for number 12! Would make a fabulous series of tv detective films. So much better than “Grace”

    In my mind’s eye I see an actor in the style of Sean Evans.A little bit of a misfit definitely not a tough looking guy.

    Like others on here, I first came across an Inspector McLean book in a charity shop. Being a big fan of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series, I was drawn by the précis on the cover. So far I have read the first seven books in the series and fully intend to read the rest – and any more that James Oswald intends to write. The way he paints pictures with his words is unmatched, especially as he includes the dour Scottish humour in his narrative. I agree that it would make a great TV series but have to disagree about the suggestion of David Tennant. He is a fine actor and I have enjoyed pretty much everything he has done but for my money, I would cast Richard Madden from the TV series “Bodyguard” as Tony. He fits the image that has been created in my head more closely. I look forward to reading the remaining stories. Bravo sir! More power to your quill.

    Completely addictive and have just finished tWhat Will Burn. Can’t wait for the next one – hope you are writing the next as we speak, James!!! Thanks for making lockdown easier to bear!

    Began reading James Oswald’s books, having read many Scottish writers before, when I was visiting my local Library and was directed to his books.
    Wow, I am so happy. Love Edinburgh and know some of the places in his books. His writing keeps me ‘in the moment’

    Been reading James Oswald books for a long time read them all now just finished What will burn all of the books are brilliant love them roll on the next one Carnt wait ,once I start on a new book carnt put it down

    Picked up inspector mcclean 8 and 9 from a charity shop. Loved 8 so much that I downloaded 1 to 7 from Amazon and have read them all through lockdown. Now back at no 8, I shall keep reading them. Love all the characters and it’s made me want to visit Edinburgh and the surrounding countryside. I also like the strange malevolent forces that appear connected to each story. Full of intrigue and suspense, I really do hope this makes it’s way on to our TV screens, keeping the characters as close to the books as possible.

    I did enjoy the first 5 books, although Number 5 (Prayer for the Dead) was already showing some weird tendencies. But No.6 The Damage Done was just too weird for me. Who were the twins? Zombies? Vampires? No conclusion to the investigation. Sorry, I enjoyed the series while it was just a murder whodunit
    but I won’t be reading the other books.

    I’ve been reading the Inspector McLean series since Natural Causes was first published, I’ve read everyone of them since. Can’t wait for the next. I have to disagree with the other comments regarding David Tennant as Insp. McLean – certainly NOT him.

    I started reading these books about 4 years ago, my mum introduced me to the series, brilliantly paced, and fascinating storyline.
    I have fallen in love with Edinburgh and would love to visit some of the places.
    I will echo that David Tenant would make a perfect Tony McLean

    I agree David tennant would make a fantastic inspector McLean need a good Scottish policeman back on tv

    I’m a big fan of Oswald’s from over here in Canada. My sole complaint is that none of his last 4 McLean novels are available in North America…even in e-book form!! Whoever his publisher is, they’re doing a poor job of building his name in the biggest English language market in the world.
    More McLean on this side of the pond, please!

    what ever became of our hero’s bequest from his (crooked, evil) lawyer in Mr. Oswald’s wonderful first book? I can not see a trace of it in his other books.

    Just reading Natural Causes. Got to admit I had never heard of James Oswald before today. It’s a really fantastic read and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

    I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed all the novels up to and including Prayer for the Dead. The last 3 aren’t available in Canada for some reason. I emailed Mr Oswald and he was kind enough to reply and let me know that it is down to his publishers. So get your butts in gear publishers! I’m sure I’m not the only Canadian who loves these books!

    I love the series, it’s just so interesting following up the whole story of Detective McClean.

    I love the series of books. Unfortunately I read Written In Bones on holiday in August and when I got back looked up James Oswald and realised I’d read the 7th book in the series which was fantastic. An excellent read from front to back but gaps in places obviously where it was the 7th book that I couldn’t figure out. So I hunted and found the other 6. I started at the beginning and now I’m just about to start number 5 Prayer for the Dead. I haven’t read for years but this series gripped me and i love the way James Oswald writes. To say it’s got me back in to reading is an understatement to say the least. Now I see there are 3 more books to the series and I’m over the moon. Keep them coming is all I can say. Hopefully my kids might get me the 3 new ones for Christmas. Highly recommended read, whatever you enjoy reading you’ll enjoy James Oswald and especially inspector Anthony McLean. Thanks D Robertson

    Easy reading, but can’t put can’t put them down

    This is a fascinating well written series. I want more!!!grant

    Normally detective books are not my scene but I found a copy of Natural Causes in a charity shop and decided to try it. Well, I was absolutely hooked and now have most of them. Beautifully written and absolutely gripping. Have they ever been made into a Drama series, as David Tennant would be perfect as Tony McLean or have I missed something major and where can I find it?

    I like all of them they are well written and well read in audible. The sub plots of the love lives of friendship groups is a welcome normaliser. Thabk God for some competent police officers not just looking at the budget!

Join the discussion

Please note: Moderation is enabled and may delay your comment being posted. There is no need to resubmit your comment. By posting a comment you are agreeing to the website Terms of Use.