The Good Son
by Russel D. McLean
Cover Artist: Photo: Mark Sadlier/Trevillion Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312576684
Date: 08 December 2009 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
James Robertson begs Private Inspector McNee of Dundee, Scotland to learn why his brother Daniel would hang himself. (Perhaps suicide is in their genes because their father also committed suicide.) The police believe it is an ordinary suicide. McNee thinks otherwise, especially when Daniel's girlfriend is found bludgeoned to death and some thugs from the nightclub where Daniel worked begin bullying and shooting anyone who knew him. The Robertson brothers shared dark family secrets and McNee must learn what they were before more people die.
An excellent debut novel from Russel D. McLean, The Good Son is a fun slice of Scottish noir. It is reminiscent of the classic PI novels written by Mickey Spillane and Ellery Queen. The Good Son is classic whodunnit. Did Daniel Robertson hang himself or did someone want to make his murder look like a suicide? The ending was rather shocking and morally twisted. The resolution disturbed me as much as it did McNee.
The central theme for The Good Son is guilt and how it affects our actions. From the title, the reader knows that family plays a significant role in the novel's plot. McNee feels a tremendous amount of guilt over his wife's accidental death. He was arguing with her seconds before their car was forced off the road by an unknown driver. He feels guilt whenever someone close to him is wounded or killed during the course of his investigation into Daniel's suspicious suicide. The Robertson brothers felt tremendous guilt, especially Daniel for disappointing his family. He was not the good son that his father wanted him to be.
McNee is the type of person who irritates me. He keeps all of his emotions buried deep inside him, allowing them to gnaw at his conscious. He can never give straightforward answers about his feelings; he is purposely deceitful. It is no wonder that his associates can't understand how his deceased wife, Elaine, was able to tolerate him. It is no wonder that he fought his superiors in the police force and had to go into business for himself as a PI. He has a lone wolf mentality.
Fortunately for McNee, he is surrounded by likeable people who give him support. Rachel, Elaine's sister, keeps insisting that he forgive himself and rejoin her family. Susan Bright, a former coworker at the police department, keeps him updated on the investigation into Daniel's suicide and provides him with emotional support. Bill is McNee's faithful, conscientious administrative assistant. Naturally, McNee has a nemesis in the form of his former boss, Detective Inspector George Lindsay. McNee must also contend indirectly with George Egg, the gangster who owns the night club where Daniel worked.
The setting for The Good Son is very quaint and picturesque. Most of the action takes place in the small rural communities in and around Dundee, Scotland. The descriptions of pubs, moors, meadows, and cemeteries are appealing. The setting contrasts sharply with the senseless bloodshed that ensues.
The Good Son is a highly recommended crime thriller. The plot moves at a quick pace that is spurred on by ruthless thugs that increase the body count. As I said earlier, the ending is rather shocking. I look forward to reading more crime novels from Russel D. McLean. I also hope that we haven't seen the last of the haunted PI McNee.
In future novels, I would like to see him grow closer to his dead wife's family and to learn who was driving the car that caused her to wreck. I would also like to see him develop a more intimate, more romantic relationship with Susan Bright.