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The Lost Sister (J. McNee Series #2)
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The Lost Sister (J. McNee Series #2)

4.5 2
by Russel D McLean

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A teenage girl is missing. Her godfather is a known criminal and her mother is hiding a dark secret. For Private Investigator J. McNee, what starts as a favor for a friend soon becomes a nightmare as he races to find the girl before it’s too late.


A teenage girl is missing. Her godfather is a known criminal and her mother is hiding a dark secret. For Private Investigator J. McNee, what starts as a favor for a friend soon becomes a nightmare as he races to find the girl before it’s too late.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In McLean's solid follow-up to The Good Son (2009), Scottish PI J. McNee, an ex-copper with copious professional and personal baggage, agrees to help a reporter friend who's covering the disappearance of 14-year-old Mary Furst. When McNee discovers that Mary's godfather is David Burns, a well-known Dundee criminal whom he'd tangled with in Son, he decides to back off the case, much to the surprise of his longtime friend and police confidante, Det. Constable Susan Bright. Yet something about Mary touches McNee, and when Wickes, a Glaswegian PI, contacts him with a possible lead, McNee is back on the case. With alliances shifting constantly, McNee must decide whom to trust: a fellow PI with a hair-trigger temper and an obvious emotional attachment to the case, or the police, in particular Bright. While McLean's sophomore effort is more nuanced than its predecessor, McNee still needs something extra to set him apart from the brooding PI pack. (Mar.)
Library Journal
When 14-year-old Mary Furst, an exemplary student and outstanding artist, disappears, PI J. McNee is hired to find her as a favor to a friend who believes the Dundee police won't get to her before it is too late. McNee, working with Constable Susan Bright, skirts the law in his investigation. The Good Son introduced McNee as a rage-driven investigator who is forced into violence. This book begins to open up McNee's psychological baggage, making him more human and understandable. Even though he is emotionally damaged, McNee's voice is clear, and his motives sound. VERDICT For readers who like Brian McGilloway and Michael Koryta, two authors who introduced fresh voices and individual takes on crime.
Kirkus Reviews

A Scottish private eye schleps around enough baggage to furnish a small apartment as he helps a friend search for a missing teenager.

Not a day goes by that Dundee private investigator J. McNee doesn't remember the beat-down he suffered at the hands of David Burns during the drug lord's turf war with Gordon Egg (The Good Son, 2009). But life goes on, and now Burns is helping wheelchair-bound journalist Cameron Connolly look into the disappearance of Mary Furst, a bright, artistic high-school student vanished without a trace from her parents' home. Wouldn't you know that Mary's godfather turns out to be the detested Burns—and that the investigation is led by DC Susan Bright, daughter of DCI Ernie Bright, who was McNee's mentor until the young constable's career spun out after his wife Elaine was killed in a car crash? Susan counsels McNee to leave it alone, but he can't, and pretty soon he's sitting in a café as a bearded giant of a man named Wickes tells him about Deborah Brown, the woman Wickes loves, an art teacher obsessed with the child she gave birth to as a surrogate: Mary Furst. McNee is pretty sure Deborah has Mary, and he's also pretty sure that there's something fishy about Wickes's tale. But between fuming about Burns's wickedness, reliving his days as Ernie Bright's protégé and puzzling over his relationship with Susan, McNee barely has time to pee, much less look for the missing pair.

A tawdry tale of he-said/she-said that doesn't push McNee much past his striking debut.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
J. McNee Series , #2
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Lost Sister

By Russel D McLean

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2009 Russel D McLean
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-5340-5


I'd done work for Cameron Connolly before, a few covert surveillances. Some – and he's the one who made the joke – "leg" work.

He paid well, asked that I keep our dealings discreet. It was a casual arrangement. His bosses would throw a fit if he asked them to retain an investigator on the payroll.

I could have told him, "discreet" was my middle name. But we didn't play those games. He didn't want the gloss, the image, the ideals he'd grown up watching on the TV. He wanted the work.

I always delivered on that.

First time he called, he said, "I like the card."


"Does the job, right? Who wants flash from a PI? Like that tosser Magnum, the one with the moustache?"

I finished it for him: "Aye, and the bright red Ferrari."

"Talk about subtle."

Connolly was on the ball. Had the gig down cold. There's simpatico between the life of a reporter and that of an investigator. We are not the focus. When we become more important than the work – when the reporter becomes the story, or the PI becomes part of his own investigations – that's when we wind up fucking the work.

No, Thomas Magnum would never have made it in the real world.

Connolly and I had worked well together on some small cases. He was something of an arsehole, but a good reporter. Carved out his career in Edinburgh, but something happened and he took the quiet – well, quieter – life working for the Dundee Herald. Only got in over his head once, but once was enough. It landed him in a wheelchair.

Working an expose on Dundee's drug trade, he'd broken that cardinal rule and become part of his own story. Beaten by irate hard bastards. His spine snapped, legs left useless.

Get his wee joke now?

This happened years before I met him, of course.

He'd told me how his brother-in-law had been an investigator, too. I recognised the name, thought I'd heard something about how he'd left the business. Personal problems.

The business could eat your life.

Best if you didn't have one to start with.

* * *

It was a Thursday when Connolly called to ask for my help. He had a story waiting to break. "And break big," he said.

Foresight? Reporter's instinct?

Either way, he didn't know the half of it.

It was early afternoon, the sun was high, shining across the top of the Overgate Shopping Centre, down North Lindsay Street and streaming into the third floor window of my offices. I was drinking coffee, catching up on correspondence.

Watch the films and you might believe most PIs are walking dark alleys, snapping secret shots of illicit lovers, getting a kicking from punks and tossing off quips every time someone pulls a gun on them.

The truth?

We spend most of our days at computer screens. Farm out the specialised work to specialised individuals. When we can afford to.

And we write reports. Spend half our life trying to remember the rules of grammar we'd ignored all through school.

I'd never taken an official test, but after a few years in the business, I had a feeling my WPM could beat that of most secretarial staff.

Thing was, I wasn't typing up too many reports when Connolly called.

On the news, they talked about The Credit Crunch. Capitalise it, it's that important. Like the world was going straight to hell. Maybe so. I couldn't comment on that. But I could say that it had turned my usual pool of clients into a bunch of stingy bastards.

Guess in an economic downturn, priorities change.

So I welcomed the interruption. The chance to talk to someone else on the other end of the line. Even a hermit needs to talk every once in a while.

"It's all hush-hush," Connolly said.

I couldn't help myself. "On the QT?"

"Confidential." Connolly hesitated. I heard a door open and close somewhere nearby. He wasn't kidding about confidential if he was waiting for someone to leave. "I'm serious, pal. The coppers don't want this one getting out. Not before they say so."

"Hang on." I looked around for a pen. Found one fast, then realised I didn't have any paper. Started hunting through drawers, all the while trying my best to take in what Connolly had to say.

He said, "I should tell you up front, this isn't the usual arrangement."


"The high heedjuns, they aren't exactly looking to splash the cash."


"Every penny has to be accounted for."

My services weren't on the books. Probably filed under misc, some shite like that. I'd never cared to ask. It had never mattered before.

"I don't do favours."

"You'll be compensated."

"From your pocket?"

"Ever heard of mate's rates?" He didn't sound hopeful.

I found the pen, looked at the correspondence on my email. Thought about the hours stretching ahead waiting for the next case to just fall in my lap.

Fuck it. Like I had anything better to do?

"Go ahead," I said. "I'll hear you out at least."

He dived on, like he'd never expected me to say any different. "Lead on this one's DCI Bright."


"You know him?"

"Trained under him when I went for the CID gig."

A gig I never completed. Couple months, waiting for the probationary period to end. After the car crash that killed Elaine, my career took what's best described as a downward spiral. Wound up with me breaking a superior officer's nose. Hardly dignified, but then life seldom is.

Things could have been worse, I suppose.

There was a notepad at the back of the bottom drawer in my desk. Couple of old numbers scribbled on the first page. I scored through them, tried to remember if they were important.

Elaine used to laugh at how disorganised I was. Couldn't figure how I got anything done.

My excuse was, I had a system, she just didn't understand it.

Her response: "Neither do you."

Aye, she'd had a point. Always did.

Connolly said, about DCI Bright, "That's it? There's something more between you and Bright. Don't kid a kidder, McNee."

Guys like Connolly could hear those things you didn't say.

"It's not important."

He let it drop. We had a surface relationship, but he understood me enough to know when I didn't want to talk about something.

"Bright's in charge, then," I said.

"Yep. Missing girl. Fourteen years old. Name's Mary Furst. Been missing since yesterday afternoon." He told me the story. Gave me the facts.

I scribbled furiously.

Reflected later.

* * *

Mary Furst was in her third year of high school. First year of Standard Grades.

A bright student. The kind of girl who breaks hearts, but never with malice. The kind of girl everyone likes. The kind of girl who'll never want for anything. Not an enemy in the world.

No wonder Connolly was on the case. This was the sort of story, you could tug people's heartstrings. The right details, every reader would be smudging the type with their tears.

Tragedy equals circulation.

In fairness to Connolly, he didn't seek it out, but he had this instinct. Knew when tragedy was close at hand.

This was one in the making.

Mary Furst left school at the usual time, according to the police reports. The family – just Mary and her mother these days – lived within walking distance of the Bellview Academy campus. She'd generally sling back across neighbours' gardens. That kind of neighbourhood. Most of the residents knew each other, didn't mind their kids taking shortcuts through their property as long as they behaved themselves.

Over the phone, Connolly said what I was thinking: "Thought that kind of world disappeared around 1966."

So Mary makes it home, passes Mum in the kitchen, says she's heading upstairs to get changed. Mum reminds her: homework.

So far, so domestic.

Mum pops out for milk. The shop's across the street.

Her daughter is fourteen.

Bright. Intelligent. Trustworthy. More than most kids, if what Mum says is to believed.

But when Mum comes back with the milk ...

... Mary's gone.


"And why are the police hushing this up?"

Connolly chuckled like an undertaker. Amused at me, not the girl's disappearance. Journalism – like police work – brings out your cynical, callous nature. We've all got one.

He said, "I don't believe she ran off."

"Good girl or not, you get some funny ideas at that age."

"You ever go through a rebellious phase?"

I didn't answer.

Connolly persisted: "McNee, were you ever a bloody child?"

I didn't answer that, either.

"Christ, were you grown in a fucking factory?"

I broke down under the pressure. "Maybe."

"Go shite."

I couldn't resist a smile. He couldn't see me. It didn't matter. Long as I sounded like I had a poker face on. "Tell me why you don't think this one's a runaway."

"The police are acting funny. DCI Bright's a cagey bugger at the best of times, but this time he's being real slippery."

Me and Ernie Bright hadn't talked in a long time. Not since I left the force. Maybe for as many personal as professional reasons.

"What's the press release say?"

"The facts. And that lovely wee postscript that asks, anything we find, could we please give it to the police and keep it under wraps."

"They're asking for help."

Connolly chuckled again. "Ah, but they're not asking for it."

"Devious bastards. That strike you as suspicious, then?"

"After a couple of years in this game, everything does."

Cynical? Aye, but he had the instincts.

I was feeling it, too. This wasn't just a missing person case. Maybe you just pick up on these things after a while. Our businesses breed paranoia.

Or maybe I just needed something to occupy my mind. Looking for a case where maybe there wasn't one. I was bored; in need of something other than the run of the mill jobs I could do in my sleep. Photographing accident sites, assisting genealogical researchers. Not the kinds of cases that got my blood boiling.

This one had potential. Might prove interesting at least.

I said, "This one doesn't go on the books."

"It's free then?"

"I'll sniff around," I said. "If it seems interesting, I come at you with a price."

"Fair enough."

It wasn't. But I guess he thought it was better than nothing.

* * *

The popular image of the private investigator: a pariah to the local police force.

Check the antagonism they receive in the American pulp novels. The snide remarks. The beatings. The humiliations.

Only one copper treated me like that. And DI George Lindsay had reason enough.

There were others who, most of the time, I considered friends. Like Susan Bright.

Aye; the DCI's daughter.

A Detective Constable these days. Plain Clothes. Suited her.

We met for coffee at a small Italian-style café with stone floors. Trying to mimic the continental street culture. Bringing the experience inside was the only way to do it in Dundee. The local weather was hardly suited to the task. Especially this late in the year. The frost wasn't settled yet, but it was on its way.

Listen to the weather reports on the local stations and you might expect Arctic temperatures any minute.

Half ten, the place was empty. The staff chatted at the counter, paid us no attention. Didn't matter. We were looking for private conversation, anyway. Took a tucked-away corner table near the rear, just beside the display case of desserts. Susan deliberately took the seat that faced away from them.

I said, "When'd you start drinking tea?"

Susan met that with a smile. "Coffee was keeping me up at night."

I nodded at her cup. "More caffeine in there than in mine."

"That a fact?"

"Read it somewhere."

"Give me the source."

"Give me a break."

She broke the grin; frowned. Tipped her head to the left and then the right. Trying to look at me from a different angle.

Worried me, sometimes. This way she had of seeing through my bluster. Felt a little too ... intimate. Although you could chalk that up to guilt, a half-remembered night of drink and bereavement. Dangerous mixture.

"You want something?" I tried saying it with a grin. Off the cuff. Nonchalant. Not my style.

"Really, Steed," she said.

Steed. An old nickname. Got tired of explaining to people: like the actor who played Steed in the avengers. Patrick MacNee. No one ever said: But he spelled it differently and I'd long given up caring.

"I just thought ... we hadn't talked in a while."

True enough. But not the reason I asked her out here to talk. She knew it, too. Gave me the look she'd inherited straight from her old man. The one that said, no shite today, and made you realise there was nothing you could hide from this woman.

The look that made her a force to be reckoned with when interrogating a suspect. Probably the look that got her the fast track to CID.

She said, "Tell me." No inflection. No stress. No implied meaning.

So I told her. Straight up. No use lying to Detective Constable Bright. Christ, but I could imagine being on the wrong side of her in an interview. She was delicate; small bones, sharp features, long fingers. And that look that said: this is not a woman you mess with.

She listened. Another skill every copper needs.

When I was done, she said, "You're talking about my dad's case."

I nodded.

She said, "This is what they call a conflict of interest."

I nodded again.

She ran her right hand through her hair as though pulling out the tangles. Didn't look directly at me. Said, "Remind me why I stick my neck out for you?"

I shrugged. "My rugged good looks?"

She shook her head. "Try again."

I didn't.

She said, "You're bad for my career."

"Who says that?" Like I didn't know the answer.

She had partnered with DI Lindsay for a few months after her promotion. He wasn't shy in sharing his opinions. Especially when it came to me for some reason.

Could never figure that out.

"Part of policing is politics."

Aye, the part I never liked. My attitude: just do the fucking job, forget kissing anyone's arse.

Susan's attitude, too, I guessed. But she had more sense than me. Knew when to reign back her behaviour.

She said, "I know the journalist. Connolly. Arrogant. Thinks he's ... entitled." She chose that last word carefully. Maybe aware of the implications someone could pick up from it.

"Aye," I said, "he's a journalist all right. But he's not so bad."

She raised her eyebrows. "You've started seeing the good in people?"

I almost said, "I blame you for that." Instead remained with what I hoped was a neutral expression. Said, "Did my homework. I know the coppers working the case. Didn't think they'd let father and daughter on the same gig."

"You know how it is, Steed. You remember, right?"

"Never enough people to go round." Same old story. The police were underfunded. Nothing new there. Every successive government made promises about policing and every time they fucked the boys and girls in uniform.

Not in the pleasant sense, either.

I know of one force that has a speed trap set up on a stretch of motorway notorious for speeding. But they don't have the manpower to keep a permanent eye out for naughty motorists. So they have a wooden car. I shit you not; a wooden car. Painted up to look like the real thing. They erect it when there's no one available to sit sentry at police parking spots on the side of the motorway. Motorists coming down can't tell if it's real or not till they're right on top of it, and most of them aren't going to take the chance.

Creative thinking, but borne of necessity. Lack of manpower. Lack of funding. Lack of support.

The Daily Mail crowd bemoan the lack of powers the police have and cry bloody murder when their comfortable incomes are taxed to pay for it. Of course, you read a paper like that, you're less than half a step from hypocrisy and self-delusion in the first place.

I said to Susan, "Then this is a big case? A priority?"

"Oh, aye. Couldn't you tell when your paraplegic wee friend got interested?"

"He's not paraplegic. Not like Denzel Washington in that bloody film."

"Thought you hadn't been to the movies in decades."

"I keep up. Trailers, mostly."

"Best parts."

"What I can gather."

She smiled at me across the table. The Officer Bright façade had dropped, as it always did eventually. We spiked between two forms of communication: confrontation and ... something else.

I didn't know what to call it.

"He's your client, then?"

"I'm running this down as a favour."

"What's that mean?"

"What's it sound like?"

She nodded. For a second I thought she was going to walk. Wouldn't blame her.

But she'd never walked before with all the shite I put her through. This was no exception.

Don't ask me why.

She said, "You know, part of Dad wishes you were still on the force. He'd be glad to have you working this one. Even just consulting. Christ, you were the Golden Boy."

She'd told me as much the first time we met. Back then it had sounded more like an attack, of course.

I said, "He knew me as a uniform. Nothing more."

"He's a sharp cookie."

"Like his daughter."

"Aye, well, I'm not going to deny any compliments from you."

"I'm not asking you to give me anything that's going to endanger the case," I said. "Just enough access."

"How much is just enough?"

How do you answer a question like that?

I said, "Tell me about her."

"Mary Furst? What do you know?"

"Good student. Well liked. Not a care in the world. At least none beyond the usual teenage angst."

"You remember how that was?"

"I can barely remember past last week."


Excerpted from The Lost Sister by Russel D McLean. Copyright © 2009 Russel D McLean. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

RUSSEL MCLEAN writes for Crime Spree Magazine, The Big Thrill, At Central Booking and Crime Scene Scotland. His short fiction has been published in crime magazines in both the US and the UK. He lives in Dundee, Scotland.

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Lost Sister (J. McNee Series #2) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Suspensemag More than 1 year ago
Welcome to Dundee, Scotland, where past actions affect the lives of today. Where a teenage girl goes missing and a private investigator is reluctantly drawn into the case. Where lies and secrets abound and personalities clash. This the second book by McLean, who has written numerous shorts stories for magazines in both America and Great Britain. Private investigator J. McNee deals with each case on a personal level, maybe too much. He is dealing with an incident the previous year where he was manipulated into exposing his dark side and killing another man. Mary Furst, a teenager, is missing and McNee can't help but be more than a police observer and advisor. Suspects include a crime lord McNee hates, an ex boyfriend, and Mary's art teacher, Deborah. Enter Wickes, who claims to be an investigator from Glasgow. He tells McNee a story concerning Deborah, their relationship, and the fact Mary is actually Deborah's mother, given up through a surrogacy arrangement. However, McNee soon discovers Wickes has a violent side and may not be telling the truth. That truth, however, is complex and McNee finds himself struggling with finding Mary while battling internal demons threatening to rise again. This is a fast-paced story spanning all of three days. It is character driven with nearly every character having troubled pasts. McNee has relationship problems with many of his 'friends.' If McLean plans for future McNee books, he has a lot of room for more character development. Keep an eye for more good stuff from this acclaimed author. Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, author of "Beta" for Suspense Magazine
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Dundee, Scotland, fourteen year old Mary Furst vanishes. The family believes time is short as Mary is a great student and promising artist who would never have just run away. Not expecting the overworked police to rescue the teen alive, former Dundee cop turned private investigator J. McNee is hired to find and save the child. He agrees with the assessment that the child was snatched takes on the case; he barely conceals his ire and if he can get his hands on the culprit with no cops around the predator will regret abducting a kid. McNee is not hampered by the restrictions placed on the cops as he follows leads. He wonders if Mary's criminal Godfather is the cause as an enemy could be behind the abduction. He finds that the child's mom is uncooperative so he bullies her trying to get her to tell him what she fearfully but obviously hides. Ignoring legal boundaries while working closely with Constable Susan Bright, McNee fears time has run out on Mary who he thinks is probably dead. The second McNee raging out of control investigation is a super thriller as the hero's anger management issues remain a critical part of him, but provides insight into the causes of his emotional problems; something the exciting The Good Son lacked. Ironically the story line is fast-paced from the moment McNee does the favor, but in the protagonist's mind his pace is too slow. Readers will appreciate the traumatized hero who is apt to lead with his fists and ask questions later. Harriet Klausner