THE GOOD SON. In the newest book, THE LOST SISTER (out today), McNee is still grieving but is slowly becoming a bit more involved in the world around him. When the case of a missing teenage girl, an only child, is put before him, he really doesn't want to know, not until he learns that the girl's godfather is a mobster, the same nasty piece of work to whom McNee owes thanks for that crushed hand. All along McNee's instincts tell him that his client, a highly temperamental fellow from out of town, isn't quite on the up-and-up. But every time our hero tries to back out of the case, his own curiosity and his desire for a little payback on the mobster suck him back into the search. This won't be the hardest case McNee will ever crack, but it may well be the bloodiest.
The idea of dysfunctional families is hardly a new notion in crime fiction (The Big Sleep, Savages) but because family dynamics can be twisted into so many different pretzel shapes, it's one that a good writer can always find ways to exploit. Author McLean does just that, eyeballing the extreme behavior people will display for their children, for their siblings, and for themselves. And no extreme is greater, of course, than that which McLean's characters will go to for themselves, no matter how much they tell themselves (and McNee) that they are doing these things for someone else.
Without beating the reader over the head with the questions, without taking sides with his characters, McLean leads one to ponder: Is maternal love a good enough qualification to make a woman a mother? What separates love from possession or even obsession? At what point must self-love trump the love for another?
As with his first book, there are no words or trees wasted in the telling of this bleak story. The author never displays an overfondness for the appearance of his own words on paper, never gets himself between McNee and the reader. The entire story has the bitter ambiance of a "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." all over it. Is it noir? Well, if everyone is wrong going in, and they're wrong or dead coming out, I think that qualifies.