McNee. That's his name, don't wear it out. The name used by his wife, her family and his police colleagues. At least that's what his wife called him before she died in an accident as she was driving him home, McNee riding shotgun, her father in the back. And it's what the police still call him even though he left the force under a cloud of depression, a weight of guilt following said wife's death and san incident where he smacked one of his superiors in the nose.
Since the accident, he's not been able to talk to his father-in-law who blames him for it all and he's had a bad leg which doctors think might be psychosomatic rather than physical. Great name for a Scot with a gammy leg then, McNee, like some joke from fifty years ago.
The man's been carrying that weight of guilt around with him since the accident. It fuels him. Gives him a reason to get up in the morning. Helps him in his work as a Private Investigator.
As we get to know him, we'll realise that his wife's accident has little to do with the way he is, that he's always been burdened, always been socially inept and difficult to get to know. A hard man in respectable clothing.
The more I got to know this guy, the more I liked him.
We met in the first pages. Everything was kicking off.
McKnee has a gun pointed at someone's head. He's already killed someone, he tells us that, so one more might not make any difference.
Those opening pages are full of madness and rage, confusion and adrenalin. It's a great way to get to know a bloke and had me hooked from the off.
Backtrack to the beginning of the story.
Farmer James Robertson comes to McNee, asks him to find out why his brother Daniel (not been home for 30 years) has returned to Dundee and hung himself from a tree.
As McNee digs, he'll find that Daniel Robertson was not a nice guy. Was the right hand man of a London gangster (Egg, and definitely one of the bad variety) and was sleeping with the gangster's wife.
Gangster's wife heads north and is soon brutally dispatched by person or person's unknown.
Dundee, unsexy place for a PI, bursts into action and adventure as the local hard-men try to see off the London mob invasion.
McNee's colleagues on the force get on to his back and resurrect ghosts from his time on the job and his wife's sister and an ex-one-night-stand try and patch things together.
He's like a leaky boat our protagonist. It's why I liked him so much.
There's never a dull moment as he bails like hell to get rid of all the water even as it's rising above his neck.
It's like McLean started to write the character and McKnee decided to go it his own way, ignoring his creator and doing what he pleased. What fun.
This is a first novel, which is hard to believe.
The plot, characters and dialogue are superb. The Dundee setting works surprisingly well and the author shows of an intimate knowledge of the type of city it is. The twists and turns are unpredictable and that's the way I like it.
Each chapter ends with a sentence that uses the first person narrative to good effect and owes something to the classic PIs of our American brothers and sisters. You feel an uneasy resolution and a need to move on quickly.
McLean's touch is interesting. Mostly I found it easy and flowing, one of those page-turners that brings a constant source of pleasure. He almost fooled me with that, for he also has a range of weapons at his disposal. He has blunt which he uses now and then to stun as he throws in a cold, hard phrase to unsettle. There are the sharp objects in there, descriptions and force that cut as the phrase turns. There are guns and fists lurking too. And there's a little wry-smile that jumps out when you're least expecting it as if Harry Lime's lurking in the shadows and having a bloody good time.
I read this before my summer break, but I reckon this is the perfect book for a holiday- you don't have to put in much effort to get an awful lot of satisfaction.
If the character's name amuses, get this. The author, McLean, has written a story that's anything but.
And something else that made me chuckle, it only cost me 99p for the Kindle.