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Father Confessor by Russel D, McLean
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Five Leaves Publications Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781907869549
Date: 01 September 2012 List Price £:7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

PI J. McNee of Dundee, Scotland, vows to solve the murder of DCI Ernie Bright who was once his mentor when he was a cop. The fact that Ernie's daughter Susan is McNee's girlfriend is a contributing factor. Susan is also a cop and strongly determined to punish the triggerman who killed her father. During his investigation, McNee teams up with the man he loathes, DI George Lindsay. McNee fears that Ernie may have become a corrupt cop, like so many others, because he was friends with notorious mobster David Burns. Soon, McNee finds himself caught in a deadly web of corruption involving prominent police officers, politicians, and businessmen.

Russel D. McLean's third novel in the J. McNee series (following The Good Son and The Lost Sister) is probably the most disturbing and atmospheric. With Father Confessor, McLean delves deeply into McNee's haunted past, especially the part which deals with his life as a police officer. Once again, the reader is told about the hit-and-run death of his fiancée Elaine Barrow and his subsequent mental breakdown that led to him striking his superior officer, George Lindsay. Will McNee finally learn who was driving the vehicle that killed her? Several characters hint that the driver's identity is known.

McLean's first novel, The Good Son, is a superb whodunit. His second novel, The Lost Sister, showcased McNee's skills in locating a missing person. Father Confessor is strictly a paint-by-the-numbers noir. It has your requisite characters consisting of bad cops, corrupt politicians, and notorious mobsters. It explores the following common themes: criminals become cops in order to hide their criminal activities and the line between a good cop and a bad cop is a thin, blurred one. The plot consists of overgrown, muscle-bound thugs, hopeless drug addicts, shootings and explosions.

What distinguishes this series from others probably can be guessed from looking at the novels' titles. The importance of family is very predominant. Ever since the death of his fiancée, McNee is constantly searching for a family. He was once part of a family of police officers but he quit the force. Now this family of police officers doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with him. He's looked upon as a traitor. All three novels, especially the last one, involve families that are destroyed by violence. They should be read in sequence in order to enjoy them as a soap opera-like Scottish crime miniseries.

Dundee is the fourth largest city in Scotland. It has much to offer in the form of tourism. There are ancient Pict ruins, the Camperdown Wildlife Center, and numerous castles, art galleries, and museums that will transport visitors into the past. I only wish that McLean would spend more time incorporating these interesting attractions into his novels. I've read plenty about mundane coffee shops, crumbling tenements, abandoned warehouses, and Victorian mansions in other mysteries.

McLean's writing style, which consists primarily of short, choppy sentences, sometimes annoyed me. Eventually, however, it lent the story a gloomy, dream-like atmosphere. Since McNee is the narrator, I felt that he was describing a horrific experience that seems extremely nightmarish to him; after all, he does endure some horrible beatings. The rundown tenements and warehouses that McNee encounters during his investigation also give the story a gloomy, depressing atmosphere. Adding to the gloom is the weather; it is miserably cold and snow is often falling.

Father Confessor is recommended for those who enjoy bloody, violent noir set in European countries. PI J. McNee is a very likable character who is tortured by his turbulent past; the reader will definitely root for him as he continuously risks his life searching for the murderer of DCI Ernie Bright. I will definitely be reading Russel D. McLean's next novel in the J. McNee award-winning series.

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