Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Good Son (Russel D. McLean, 2008)

I try to maintain a habit of getting myself familiar with a local crime books "scene" when traveling to a city for the first time. So I've picked up this one in the local Waterstones last year when I went to see the almighty Swans in Glasgow. It wasn't straightforward decision though (about picking up the book I mean; going to see Michael Gira & co was no-brainer)! Having P.I. for its main protagonist obviously cannot hurt but I was a bit weary because of a Ray Banks' cover blurb saying that author has updated the genre etc. And we of course don't want our genre to be "updated", we want authors to respect it and write good hard-boiled books. But what a hell, I was finally persuaded by the pretty cute dedication at the beginning saying: "To Mum and Dad with huge amounts of love. But, sadly, still not enough money to buy that house in France." Nice touch, hope my 8 pounds will get them a bit closer to that house.

First half is good, really liked it. PI McNee is hired by a local farmer to find out what had really happened to his long-lost brother Daniel Robertson who unexpectedly reappeared after 20+ years and was found hanged in the woods. Suicide or some more sinister affair? McNee in no time at all discovers that guy has left his rustic surrounding to become a  "violent, self-serving bastard with little or no redeeming qualities" working for a London mobster Gordon Egg. When he fled from his his employer, some money got lost so soon his girlfriend Kat and two "cockney pricks psychopaths" arrive from the capital to Scotland (Jockland). Stage is all set and ready!

Quality, good stuff. Was pretty impressed how McLean managed to create a tense atmosphere so quickly and without much of a plot or strong protagonists. Basically just using the good old and proven techniques (lying and evasive client, mysterious woman, stolen money, messed-up family, good old greed etc) that never miss if they are used properly. Very skilful writing in my opinion, especially when you think that this is his debut novel. Started to cheer for a guy and hoped to at least keep this suspense and style on the same level. Which - sorry to report it - doesn't happen at all.

Because second half is mostly about family shit and boring moral dilemmas. And not only about Robertson family, McNee also has this big guilt thing about his late wife. So it just gradually turns into another one of those psychological thrillers without much of a classical detective work and lots of inner struggles. And while I'm at this topic, let me also bitch quickly about our hero. He's okay guy and I guess that author wanted to make him non-orthodox by giving him a gay male secretary instead of a hot blonde Velda type but somehow it doesn't work.Pretty ridiculous part is when he forgets to switch off his gun's safety off. Come on!

But still it was good and entertaining read, at least first half of it. Writing is tight and fluent, story plausible enough and easy to follow and I have also enjoyed use of a slang, both Scottish local and London cockney. Lots of ayes, bobbies and stupid bloody eejits...

Cool enough to check out McNee's next case when I'll go to Edinburgh's Fringe festival later this year.



J. McNee, the "Steed" P.I.

Dundee, Scotland. Where:

The life of an investigator is hardly seen as glamorous.We don't have the same lone-wolf mythology as our counterparts in the US. If people think of us, it's as sleazy, cheap last-resorts. And in Scotland, we're barely even thought of that.

Body count
5 + additional one in the prologue (not directly related to the main story)

Police Constable Susan Bright + Rachel, McNee's dead wife Elaine's sister

He gets smashed twice by a gun. Saying just "I went down on my knees. Everything went out of focus". But for me something doesn't add up here. Considering that just two blows had knocked him out there should be definitely another uncounscious momement at the final shoot-up when he really gets beaten to the pulp!

Refers of course to Daniel, the good son comparing to his black sheep brother.

Pretty dull. It's probably supposed to be sinister and/or mysterious but it doesn't feel either to me. It would be much more effective if there was an actual corpse hanging from that tree.

Cool lines
Bloodshot eyes made him look like he's drunk enough booze to re-float the Titanic.

"Playing at PIs. You wear a fucking trenchcoat and a hat while you fuck him?"[The Coolest!]

The bullet caught Liman in the chest. He stopped, stood still for a moment, and then jerked once before falling backwards, collapsing onto the wet ground: an abandoned doll. Except no child would want a toy that looked like that.