Russel D. McLean's protagonist is an ex-cop-turned PI who quit the force, punched a superior, lost a fiancée, and hurt his leg. The dude is so damaged that he's even lost his first name (we know him only as J McNee). So McLean must be shite, right?
But he isn't, and The Lost Sister, the young Dundonian's second book, is a reminder that genre conventions can be useful templates, themes on which an interesting, interested writer can build variations.
McLean's theme is emotions. McNee struggles with his own and wonders about everyone else's. He makes wrong guesses, and then he wonders why. He gets the job done, albeit messily, and, without resorting to the easy out of a happy ending, McLean ends this sometimes sad book on a note of modest, small-scale optimism. And if the theme is emotions, one of McLean's variations is that not all McNee's emotions are of the alcohol-fueled, revenge-bent, self-pitying kind. I don't remember him taking a drink anywhere in the book.
McLean does a fair job of building suspense, too, and for a good part of the book I was as puzzled as McNee was about the title character. And that means McLean is a dab hand at misdirection.
© Peter Rozovsky 2011