A review of Reb MacRath’s Southern Scotch by Tony Daniel
When you first dive into Reb MacRath’s Southern Scotch, it’s almost like the title itself. Smooth, easy going down, and something to be savored. Then, like any good scotch whiskey, the burn settles in, and you want another glass… and another… and another.
As the story starts out, Pete McGregor, a transplanted Scotsman in Atlanta, has a rather comfortable, mundane life. He works for a local business weekly newsletter. People request information, he finds the information, and they pay the magazine. When one particular client’s payment defaults, Pete sets out to collect on the debt. As he arrives at the purported location of the client, he is mistaken for someone else and takes a horrific beating. Thugs leave him for dead, something that is never a good idea.
Pete recovers, and remakes himself, over time, into a machine bent on revenge.
MacRath goes from Mickey Spillane to Quentin Tarantino, both in style and quirky characters and humor. His Pete McGregor, reborn as Boss MacTavin, a ruthless sociopath with an oddly-golden heart, is a wonder to enjoy. Almost like the setting of Atlanta itself, the character is burned to the ground, only to return as a phoenix with one hell of an attitude. At times, I caught myself picturing Sean Connery’s James Bond, but with Rambo’s fighting skills and Tarantino’s Jules Winfield’s philosophies of life. MacTavin is willing to go to whatever extreme he needs to do to make things right, whether it’s slicing a man’s finger off just to make a point, or spouting platitudes about life, the universe, and everything.
MacTavin quickly becomes an antihero you root for, a guy you wish you had as a friend because you would know NOBODY else would EVER bother you again. While he may be scary, you immediately get the feeling that you can trust the character because he wears his personality for all to see. There are no hidden secrets anymore with MacTavin, no inner light glowing to keep him warm and fuzzy. He’s who he is, built from the ashes of a man on the brink of death, and resurrected to make sure that never happens again. Except to the people who cross him, of course.
Southern Scotch is the first of the MacTavin series, and I, for one, cannot wait for more. There are certain characters that drive their literary series. Lee Child found his dark loner in Jack Reacher. Jason Bourne became the mysterious “person without an identity.” And MacRath has found a dark, quirky, wonderful character in Boss MacTavin. Here’s hoping the single-malt style carries for as many years as a perfectly aged keg of Scotland’s finest whiskey.
Southern Scotch can be purchased in both paperback and kindle ebook.
Tony Daniel is a freelance writer and author of “Return To Sender,” the first book in the “Pyramid Investigations” series.