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Natural Causes By James Oswald

Updated on July 12, 2017

Detective Inspector

It is needless to say that the novel started off with a death. It is a crime fiction novel. We are quickly introduced to the main character, Detective Inspector Anthony McLean.

After finding a dead body and offering his assistance, even though he was off duty, McLean was at the wrong end of the stick with his superior, by accidentally butting into his superior's investigation. The death of one of Edinburgh's elite has most of the station working on the high-profile investigation. McLean has a lot going on during the novel, both good and bad. A new situation arises almost as soon as something else is half way solved.

I don't want to give anything away since this is the first of the series but there are many other deaths and crimes to be found within the novel.

The whole novel is set in Edinburgh, Scotland which is full of unusual weather and 'extraordinary' people and buildings. Each of the different scenes and settings was described very well and they were equally detailed. You do not become bored of reading the long descriptions and try to skip over the detail to the dialogues; readers can really picture the scene through the graphic outline.

Book Cover


I have two favourite characters: Detective Inspector McLean and Detective Sergeant Laird, 'Grumpy Bob'.

One thing that I love about McLean is that he is very human. Mental-wise. After finding a dead girl in a basement one of the emotions he has is guilt. I don't know too much about being a detective or a policeman/policewoman, but I have this impression that (in novels) other characters have no care about the person who suffered or just treat the case like any other without emotion. McLean feels guilt and sorrow for the girl even though he was not at fault in any way for her death.

Another thing that I love about McLean, is how he continues to persevere throughout the novel. He feels as if he owes it to the victims, especially the dead girl, to find their murderers and put them away for good. Although you may find that there is quite a plot twist regarding the murderers and the victims.

Tony is a distinctive character, like all main characters, who is mostly alone when it comes to family. He really only has his friends, and most of them are detectives. From other mystery novels I have continued to read (after reading Natural Causes), I realised that the main characters are alone. Which is good because that means there is more on the line when it comes to danger and drama. They barely have anything to lose, but they could lose everything at the same time. This is what I like about McLean as a character. Even though he knows he doesn't have too much in life at the beginning of the novel, he still feels as if he could lose everything in a single moment.

'Grumpy Bob' is just great. And lazy. A lot of the lines that he says are really funny to me, and I don't even think they're meant to but they are. I've laughed a lot of the times just because he is a lazy man but he can be helpful/comforting if the need arises. Bob is a good friend of McLean's. At one point, Bob was Tony's superior and they had the same 'status' before a past shooting promoted Tony to Inspector. You could say that Bob is a typical character by the way he helps McLean, not because he has to but also because he wants to, and relies on him when it comes to needing to use that spare bedroom after a night of drinking.

Grumpy Bob is hilarious and friendly and calm and scared (post mortems, cutting open dead bodies is not his cup of tea) but he is overall a great character.

All of the characters in the novel felt very real to me. I could picture the characters in my mind's eye clearly and their responses are not hurried or forced. Overall the dialogues of the characters were very well written in my opinion.

Scenes in 'Natural Causes'

There were a lot of scenes which were very gripping. Especially the descriptions of each of the murder scenes. They were very vivid. When I had first read the book, the murders seemed so real to me, it was slightly horrifying. But that's what a crime fiction novel is supposed to be. Gripping and horrifying.

The story kept me guessing the whole way through. I had all these theories of who had committed each of the crimes, but of course, DI McLean was able to figure out the truth in the end. No matter how twisted it is.

My favourite funny scene of all was when McLean and Bob had found a small incident room to use for figuring out who killed the girl from the basement. A new character is introduced: Detective Constable Stuart MacBride. What I had found funny, and continue to laugh at, was Grumpy Bob's response to MacBride's 'eagle-eyes'.

Additionally, my favourite astonishing scene in 'Natural Causes' was when McLean and another side character, Constable Kydd, were headed back to the station after seeing a potential witness. And suddenly everything happened all at once. A white van is driven into the scene, intending to kill off the main character, but it instead hits the side character. It is one of the most dramatically, terrifying scenes due to the suddenness of the impact. To be completely hit by a van and without seeing it coming will be a shock for anyone. James Oswald had written the scene significantly to show both McLean's and our distress to the situation.

What I had liked about the novel regarding the cases, was how they all had fit unusually well together. Every death was followed by another through the same method of murder and they all were connected. The connection was not obvious when looking through the eyes of someone practical, but it was more than that. Supernaturally more than that.


Photo taken by Bill Waters
Photo taken by Bill Waters


The book was so completely addicting, I just had to keep reading. Before I knew it, 10 chapters had already flown by and I didn't even realise it. I was so engrossed that I had already gotten halfway through the book.

My first crime fiction novel (I was lucky to pick up the first of the series) because it looked intriguing and interesting. I have never read crime fiction or any mystery novels before but after reading 'Natural Causes', I have started looking out for more crime novels to read. The book has 'opened my eyes' to this foreign genre and I am so glad it has. I wanted to keep reading the next novel in the series so that I can find out what happens to Inspector McLean.

I don't have any dislikes (as far as I am aware of...) for 'Natural Causes'. Usually, a book review would give some type of dislike, a hatred but I am not seeing that anywhere in the lines of the novel. I loved the vivid descriptions, the characters, the dialogue and the crimes. There are at least 11 deaths, one of which wasn't a crime per say or even something the police force has to be involved in.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to see what it is like to be a detective inspector, or for any young readers who love that thrill of the chase. I suppose this could be for anyone wanting to become a detective themselves, but maybe without the supernatural causing crimes.

Read it for yourselves. I promise you that you will not be disappointed with the written lines. Here's a little information: read Chapter 1 completely, then head to the back of the book to read the original Chapter 1 which James Oswald had written. Which did you like the most? Was the original too frightful for you?


5 stars for Natural Causes


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