Dundee, Scotland based J. McNee (full first name never given) is not at a good place in his life when we meet him in author Russel D. McLean’s debut novel, The Good Son. Formerly on the Dundee police force, McNee was forced into early retirement following a car crash that killed his fiancée and left him physically disabled and psychologically crippled.
Now working as a private investigator, McNee receives a visit from local farmer James Robertson whose estranged brother, Daniel, was found hanging from a tree on the family’s farm. Though the police have it down as suicide, James is convinced his brother did not kill himself and hires McNee to investigate what Daniel had been up to during the 30 years since James last saw him.
In addition to putting him at odds with his former colleagues on the police force, McNee’s investigation opens up a Pandora’s box of local thugs, London gangsters and a mysterious woman with connections to both, as a visit to London reveals that Daniel had been working for one of that city’s most notorious gangsters, Gordon Egg.
Not pleased with either Daniel’s unexplained disappearance from London, with a substantial sum of Egg’s money, or McNee’s visit inquiring about him, Egg sends two of his thugs to Dundee to get to the bottom of things. And that’s when things go seriously sideways, as Egg’s thugs, Ayer and Liman, cut a bloody path through Dundee in their efforts to retrieve the missing money.
Convinced that James Robertson knows where the money is, and that he told McNee, Ayer and Liman pay a visit to McNee’s office that results in him being beaten and his office assistant shot. Already burdened with almost suffocating guilt over his fiancée’s death, the shooting of his friend pushes McNee over the edge, to the point he’s determined to stop Ayer and Liman no matter the cost… and McNee is willing to pay quite a high price.
In McNee, author McLean has done a spectacular job of portraying a man in the seemingly contradictory position of being incapacitated by apathy for his own life, yet driven by guilt over the loss of his fiancée’s. The blunt, edgy dialogue and outbursts of pull no punches violence in The Good Son bring to mind the hard-boiled writing of the legendary Ken Bruen, and I believe it’s a well-deserved comparison. But make no mistake about it, McLean has demonstrated with his debut offering that he has a fresh, unique voice all his own. The Good Son is very, very good indeed.
The Good Son is available from Minotaur (ISBN: 978-0312576684)