Author of the Month

Name: Denise Mina

First Novel: Garnethill

Most Recent Book: The Last Breath

'ďÖan extremely taut, well-written crime novel with great central characters and a gripping and highly absorbing storyline.Ē'

Set in Glasgow in 1990, this is the story of a top newspaper columnist, Paddy Meehan, who is shocked when she hears of the murder of an old boyfriend and fellow journalist, Terry Patterson. She greatly admired his work, so when she is left a house in Ayrshire and all his notebooks she begins to investigate the secret that Terry was about to reveal which could have led to his murder.

Paddyís family means everything to her and, as she gets nearer to discovering the secret, she has to fear for the life of her nearest and dearest. The roots of the secret could be anywhere in the world covered by roving-reporter PattersonÖ

This is an extremely taut, well-written crime novel with great central characters and a gripping and highly absorbing storyline. Paddy is a very engaging character who has more than a touch of the hard-bitten newshound about her, but, at heart, she is a warm, loving and compassionate woman. Our sympathies definitely lie with her. Her family and friends are important to her, and they do seem to have some unusual and powerful problems to engage both her Ė and our - interests.

Paddy has her faults - I donít know how she will survive in modern Scotland with the ban on smoking in public places. Thankfully she is also a highly positive character who we want to see succeed. The plot, which involves the secret service and the IRA, is thrilling and totally believable. I look forward to reading more about Paddy Meehan, her friends and family.

Reviewed by: S.D.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) As it slowly evolves and increases in popularity, crime fiction seems to be organically sub-dividing into a number of widely diverse categories. Which genre (or sub-genre, evenÖ) of crime novel would you say you write in?
Ooh, thatís a hard question. There are so many sub-genres Iím not sure Iím aware of them all. I suppose Iím noirish and urban. People tell me that my work is very violent but I never think it is. Cosy, Iím not.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I used to prefer series novels because one was never enough. I think in really good series writers like Lawrence Block you never really feel you know everything about the central character and want to go back for more. Nowadays I have small children and canít make that sort of commitment: when I start reading a series. I want to skive off work, stay home and read, stay up too late getting in just another chapter, forget to eat etc. Series novels make me slightly nervous now - so I go for stand alones. Iím like a compulsive gambler whoís staying away from the first bet, but Iíve been making a list for later...
3) It seems that crime fiction is exploding in popularity at the moment. Why do you think that the crime genre has become so successful in recent years, and did this affect your decision to write in this area?
Well, I wrote my first crime novel ten years ago so I probably predate the boom. The attraction for me was being a writer without the pretentiousness of a literary novelist. You write something - it works or it doesnít - and readers are never too intimidated to tell you what they think. I think crime has become so successful because readers got fed up with being told they should read things that really werenít very entertaining. A lot of literary fiction forgot that the first job of a writer is to engage - and crime does that so well.
4) You have indicated that there will be five books in the series about Paddy Meehan. How detailed are your plans for each book before you start writing -and did you know what would happen to Paddy from the beginning?
Yes I had the whole five book story span sketched out on numbered index cards which were colour coded for character and events. It was made into a comprehensive computerised spread sheet by my uncle, the Dutchman. Actually, I just rush blindly at things with a vague idea of what happens and enjoy it as it unfolds. It takes longer, but is much more enjoyable and I think you can often read that on the page. I can usually tell when a writer has ploughed through a heavily plotted book. It makes me mad: if Iím taking the trouble to read a book I think the least the writer can do is be involved too.
5) The setting of Glasgow seems intrinsic to the story, yet I have heard mentioned that Paddy might move to another city in a future book. How do you think this might affect the atmosphere of the story?
Well, I had intended for her to move to London but she did a stupid thing and I donít think she can now. Sheís always a bit of an outsider and I thought it would be interesting to take her to Wapping, where, as far as I can gather from gossip and other reliable sources, everyone felt like an outsider.
6) There are a number of emerging and established crime writers on the scene in Scotland at present. Do you feel part of the ďTartan NoirĒ movement, and have you been influenced or encouraged by other writers from Scotland?
I definitely feel part of something. Sadly, the Scottish Noir writers all get on very well and support each other. Weíre too busy to get resentful and bitch about each other. Maybe all our careers will flag at the same time and we can turn on each other later. I think we all encourage each other by having the cheek to push the form as far as possible. Itís kind of nice to feel that youíre part of a team.
7) Without giving away the plot, which book - yours or by another author - included your favourite plot twist of all time?
Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg (No Exit Press). I read it when I was in my early teens and the change of tone half way through the book astonished me. I was so impressed by the way it was handled. The story starts as a Chandler-esque funny romp and becomes genuinely terrifying and disturbing.
8) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Movie adaptations tend to be a disappointment unless you see them before reading the book. The forms are so different itís hard to compare them, though the adaptation of Falling Angel was god awful (Angel Heart staring Mickey Rourke). I prefer true crime adaptations like Goodfellas. If pushed Iíd have to say Mystic River is up there because it captured the ambivalence of the original novel so well.
9) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
Dennis Lehaine, Pelecanos, Lippman, Slaughter, McDermid. Chandler for the jokes. Anyone from Scotland - I have to say that or theyíll batter me. Iím afraid to name them in case I leave anyone out. Iím afraid for my life you know.
10) What is your favourite crime/thriller read of all time?
Still Falling Angel. Those early influence never leave you, do they?