Monday, March 22, 2010

Still Midnight by Denise Mina

Title: Still Midnight
Author: Denise Mina
ISBN: 9780316015639, Little, Brown & Company, 2010
Genre: Police Procedural
Rating: A
Source: Amazon Vine

First Line: An orange Sainsbury's plastic bag in full sail floated along the dark pavement.

Once again Denise Mina takes us to the mean streets of Glasgow and serves up a tale of a kidnapping gone wrong peopled by finely nuanced characters.

Two Glasgow "yobs" (rowdy, aggressive, or violent young men) break into a Muslim home and demand to see Bob. When they realize that there is no one there by that name, they grab the family patriarch, Aamir Anwar, and name an astronomical sum as ransom-- an amount that no owner of a small grocery would ever be able to pay. Detective Sergeant Bannerman is assigned the case, although DS Alex Morrow is much more capable of solving it. As the investigation progresses, it is indeed Alex's knowledge of the area and her know-how that begins to piece together the clues needed to solve the case.

I've been a fan of Mina's since her Garnethill books. She tends to focus on characters that most readers would consider "throwaways", and she brings them to life in all their complexity and vulnerability. Although the tone is dark and the streets are mean, her books aren't true noir.

Mina demands readers who are patient and observant, readers who are willing to believe that characters who are criminals or drug users can have some good in them-- that they can even show flashes of humor from time to time. If you're a reader like that, then you will be sitting in high cotton because as you slowly peel back the layers of character and events, you'll feel just like Alex Morrow as you put the pieces together.

The further Alex investigates, she discovers that both criminals and victims aren't as they appear to be. A "case" in point is the kidnapped man, Aamir Anwar. Through most of the book, this small older man has a pillowcase covering his head, and he is referred to as "the pillowcase". I didn't like how this appellation dehumanized this character, and once Mina allowed me inside his head, I disliked it even more. This quiet, unassuming little man was just as full of memories, hopes and dreams as anyone else on this planet-- and he's not the only character you can feel this way about in Still Midnight.

As the story unfolds, I felt as though I knew the characters and that I had a stake in how their stories turned out. There were more than a few surprises along the way. Once again, Mina has a winner. The only thing that I feel like warning people about is that she does use Scots dialect, and if you're not used to it, it could be a little confusing. Still Midnight (and Mina's other novels) are well worth a bit of confusion. They're that good.


  1. You keep making my "to be read" list longer!

  2. I haven't read any of her books, but I should add her to my list. I like a bit of Scotch -- Oh you said *Scots*!

  3. Denise Mina is an author that I keep meaning to read. I think I would enjoy her books, if not one right after another because of their darkness. This one seems a good place to start. I am happy that you said some of the darker characters have a bit of redeeming quality. I have a hard time with protagonists that I can't like at all. Thanks for sharing, Cathy!

  4. I've never read any of Mina's work, but you've made me anxious to - this sounds wonderful!

  5. My daughter has embarked on the Garnethill trilogy and I think she is sorry there are only three books. Perhaps I should comfort her by putting this series on my list.

  6. They're that good, huh? Well if you say so then I have to start reading this author. I am always on the lookout for good crime fiction which is hard to find IMO but I see that you give it an A rating so this writer might be a winner for me too.

  7. Joe-- Sorry, Joe! I'd tell you to stop coming by, but that would be defeating my purpose, wouldn't it?

    Beth-- Yes, but some of 'em do drink "the water of life". ;)

    Kay-- Alex Morrow, the protagonist in this book, is very likeable even though she, too, has her own faults. I wouldn't want to read Mina's books one after the other either, but they are marvelous!

    Kathy-- Her books are marvelous, but they aren't for everyone. There are readers who don't like the dark elements or the fact that she often writes about hoodlums, drug users and the like.

    Dorte-- This isn't a series yet, but Mina does have another trilogy that's available. It's about Paddy Meehan, a young crime reporter in 1980s Glasgow, and the first book in the series is Field of Blood.

    Lilly-- She might be. I know that I certainly hope so!

  8. I have read a couple of her books...but not this one yet...and yes, they are very good.

    True, the dialect is a bit confusing and sometimes you have to figure things out because you can't quite get the dialogue, but it is worth the effort.

  9. Caite-- All I can say is thank God she doesn't use a full-out Glaswegian dialect. I've heard it and no matter how many times I rewound that section of tape, I never did understand what the man was saying! LOL


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!