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.