Posted in Books I have read

Mothers of the Disappeared – Russel D. McLean

Crime Fiction 3*'s
Crime Fiction

I must start this review by saying that this is the fourth book in the Dundee based A.J. McNee series. A.J. McNee is a former Detective, now a Private Investigator who has been suspended from the Association of British Investigators following an incident four years previously. I have to admit I was quite confused for the first couple of chapters as the author filled in the back story on this incident and more importantly, the relationship A.J. McNee has with the police.

The main plot surrounds a mother. Elizabeth Farnham, whose 10 year old son was murdered and now wants McNee to investigate whether the man imprisoned for his murder was actually responsible. In a parallel storyline McNee is being asked to work undercover by the very organisation that is investigating him, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, to get close to local Crime Lord David Burns. David Burns was in turn offering work in McNee’s direction but this wasn’t work he wanted to be involved in, once a copper, always a copper.
You may have guessed from my précis that this is a book with several strands of sub-plots, a complicated undertaking which the author just about pulls together but the reader will need to concentrate hard to keep up. I liked the main storyline of the investigation into the man convicted of killing Justin Farnham, this was well plotted and interesting. I wasn’t as convinced by some of the rest of the book particularly the investigation which included McNee’s previous lover Susan.

McLean appears to like adding authenticity by including details from true crimes, I have no objection to this when the narrative blends seamlessly with the plot; this wasn’t always the case. At one point the story is rattling towards its conclusion when suddenly the action switches to a piece about the awful killing at Dunblane in 1996 and whether the gun laws introduced were a good idea, it was bizarre (because it was a tenuous link) and it broke the rhythm of the plot.

This truly was a mixture of a book, the writing was on the whole engaging and it was, as the Severn House Publishers state:

‘blends the grit of classic American hardboiled fiction with a distinctly Scottish voice and attitude.’

However the ride through the book was a little bumpy which may be because I started part way through the series and I’m unable to judge which events were retold from previous books and which were introduced in this book.

I’d like to thank the publishers Severn House for giving me a copy of this book ahead of the publication date of today 1 August 2014.


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

14 thoughts on “Mothers of the Disappeared – Russel D. McLean

  1. As always, Cleo, I do love your thoughtful and candid reviews. The premise does sound interesting, but I think I’ll wait on this a bit…


  2. Cleo, just wondered as you say at the start, it’s the first book in this series, then at the end of the review you mention starting part way through the series. Is this an off shoot of a previous series then? I do enjoy books set in Scotland (particularly Glasgow, as I lived there for 16 years. It’s a perfect city for crime fiction, as it has plenty of gangsters and wannabes, although surprisingly little gun crime, more knives.) I might give this one a bash, although I’ll look out for other reviews too. Thanks Cleo, great review as ever.


    1. I’m so sorry I wrote first but meant fourth; I will correct that now. The book is set in Dundee. There is definitely an edge to Scottish crime fiction and this one had a powerful crime lord. Thanks for spotting my mistake 🙂


        1. I noticed that when I was putting my review on Amazon – seems exorbitant. The first in the series is only £2.39 and my gut feeling is that this is one of those series where it would make a lot more sense to start at the beginning.


      1. Now that’s a good idea, and a reasonable price. I’m sure it’ll go down in price (the fourth book) but I don’t think I’ve ever came across a crime fiction novel so expensive! And by a relatively unestablished author. Wonder if it’s a mistake??


  3. You must have been a Sherlock in a past life as you were able to keep track, decipher, and review it for us. For me personally, if I have to concentrate like I’m studying for an exam, that’s a bit much for me.


    1. 🙂 For a while I wanted to be a forensic scientist and my current job involves finding evidence from a number of sources and putting it all together into a credible ‘story’ however I work in Intellectual Property which isn’t as scary as ‘baddies’.


  4. Hmm…I was intrigued by this one because of the Glasgow setting, but I’m glad I let you take it for a test run first! The basic premise does sound interesting but it looks as though the author has just tried to cram too much in. Oh well! I’ve spotted that your next review is 5-stars, so I’ll head over there instead…


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