Book Review: The Lost Sister by Russel D McLean

February 28, 2010

When Russel D McLean debuted in 2008 with The Good Son, he made it clear there was a new Scottish crime fiction author who was destined for the international stage. With the second in the series, The Lost Sister, McLean is back – as is protagonist McNee – and makes it clear he’s a new force to be reckoned with.

When a teenage girl goes missing, McNee is called on for a favor. He soon discovers this isn’t just your ordinary runaway teenager, and this isn’t going to be an easy case. Mary Furst is an only child, and her godfather is a notorious criminal McNee’s crossed paths with before. McNee’s grudge against David Burns throws his judgment into question from the beginning. Desperate to pin the blame for anything against Burns, McNee’s investigation soon shifts in an unexpected direction, uncovering secrets that have been buried for years and threaten to shatter the lives of all involved. To say more would give too much away, but The Lost Sister is anything but predictable, and sorting truth from lies will threaten to hamper McNee’s investigation and stop him from finding Mary before it’s too late.

The pace of the story is rapid-fire, and the twists and turns make this page-turner anything but predictable. McLean set himself up with the extraordinary challenge of selling readers on the idea of a Scottish PI, sells the premise and leaves the reader wondering why we don’t see more Scottish PI fiction. One part thriller, one part police procedural to two parts private investigator, this book crosses enough sub-genres effectively to satisfy a wide audience. With only two books, McNee has become a memorable protagonist, a force to be reckoned with, and his ability to step outside the boundaries of conventional police procedure give him a Rebus-like quality without the niggling question of how he manages to hold on to his job. The Lost Sister is as dark as Scottish crime fiction gets, respects the tropes of the PI genre without being beholden to them and pushes the boundaries of the genre in interesting ways.

The twists in The Lost Sister are expertly handled, keeping the reader off balance and guessing as they speed towards the dramatic and shocking conclusion of the story. No sophomore slump for McLean: with The Lost Sister McLean serves notice that he’s a new force rapidly rising in the ranks to stand alongside the best Scottish crime fiction writers of today.

Sandra Ruttan is the author of the Nolan, Hart and Tain police procedurals. The third in the series, LULLABY FOR THE NAMELESS, was recently released in the US and dubbed “a vivid, noir portrait of the hard-scrabble small towns, ethnic tensions, dark urban corners, and deep forest environments of contemporary Canada, through the eyes of three fascinating, troubled investigators.” – International Noir Fiction

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Sandra Ruttan

Sandra Ruttan is the bestselling author of SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, HARVEST OF RUINS and The Nolan, Hart & Tain series. For more information, visit her website:

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