Also a Dundee, Scotland based private investigator, the tales of Sam Bryson have heretofore been scattered hither and yon throughout crime fiction publications such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Thrilling Detective Mystery Magazine, Spinetingler Magazine, and Needle.
As a result, most people have not been fortunate enough to read all of them, and many have never had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Bryson at all. Fear not, as The Death of Ronnie Sweets (and other stories) features the complete Sam Bryson collection.
The collection opens with the eponymous “The Death of Ronnie Sweets,” in which Bryson is hired by the parents of a young man who was brutally beaten and left for dead. In addition to being an interesting case, was Ronnie an innocent victim or mixed up in something unsavory, the story gives us a glimpse of Bryson’s past as a police officer and sets the tone for what’s to follow; namely, edgy, well-crafted stories that don’t flinch from tackling some of the more unpleasant aspects of life: crime and corruption, danger and doubt, regret and revenge amongst others.
The Death of Ronnie Sweets (and other stories) paints a vivid picture of a man driven by a deeply ingrained sense of justice, who’s willing to do damn near anything to solve a case and find the truth. Accordingly, to keep his temper in check and penchant for impulsive behavior from driving him too far off the rails author McLean has surrounded Bryson with an outstanding supporting cast, each of whom serves as an important waypoint on Bryson’s moral compass.
His friend Sandy Griggs is still a member of the police force, and acts as constant reminder that there are legal lines which carry consequences if crossed. The women in his life, Babs, his secretary, and Ros, his girlfriend, are not merely there to provide nurturing and support – though they do – but rather both bring to the table an unwavering “bullshit detector” which forces Bryson to be honest with himself about why he does the things he does. And to force the just shy of 30 Bryson to act like a grownup, McLean has given him a (slightly) younger apprentice for whom Bryson must set the bar as a professional role model.
Individually the nine stories are great reads. Collectively they bring to life a deeply satisfying character I wouldn’t mind seeing get a chance to shine in a full length work… but not before I get the book that finally gives me the elusive first name of McLean’s current series lead, J. McNee.
Be sure to check out Russel’s great guest post, “Origins.”