Paddy Meehan - Newspaper Reporter, Glasgow, Scotland
"Slip of the Knife"
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte APR 9, 2008)
When we last left Paddy Meehan, the intrepid journalist brought to life by Scottish author Denise Mina, she had just found out she was pregnant and had successfully solved yet another whodunit. In Slip of the Knife, Mina's latest adventure in the series, Meehan's son Pete is five and she is an extremely protective single mother. Paddy's sister Mary Ann is now a nun and Paddy still maintains close relations with her poor and traditional Catholic family.
Glasgow itself has just moved beyond the cusp of change—once a crumbling city, it is now home to artists and theater companies. “Glaswegians no longer felt as defensive of their home, began to look around with renewed interest, like a partner in a stale marriage finding out that their spouse was a heartthrob abroad,” Mina writes.
In this city, early on in the novel, Meehan finds out that her long-time colleague and ex-lover Terry Hewitt, has been shot execution style and dumped on the city outskirts. The IRA is the prime suspect. “Terry Hewitt had been her touchstone for nearly a decade. He was a marker of how she was doing, a spur to action, a call for decency,” Mina writes. As it happens, Terry has identified Meehan as his next of kin and also left her with access to a hefty file folder of clippings and photos. For some reason, the same people who got rid of Terry now want the photos left behind with Meehan. In the chase, she is intimidated in her own apartment by one “Michael Collins” and sent all kinds of warnings. Soon she finds out that the photos that Terry left behind were to be used in a project for a coffee table book. Shortly thereafter the photographer involved in the project, Kevin Hatcher, is also killed in a staged drug overdose.
In a separate and parallel story line, Callum Ogilvy, the 19-year-old cousin of Paddy's ex-fiance Sean, has been recently released from prison for a murder he doesn't remember committing. He is a shady character and must be housed in Sean's crowded home and kept from the prying eyes of the press. To add to Paddy's problems she is also not comfortable having him around young Pete.
As the pace of the book accelerates, many questions get tossed around. What exactly is in the pictures that “Michael Collins” wants? To what ends will Paddy go to make sure that Terry's materials don't slip into the wrong hands? Will the Ogilvy plot line converge with the Terry Hewitt murder? Overweight and fiery Paddy Meehan makes for one tough investigator as she chases down the answers to these questions. “You are fat and everyone hates you,” Paddy's editor Larry tells her. And she takes it as a compliment. Don't mess with a woman's young, warns Paddy Meehan early on in the novel. Sure enough, as Pete invariably becomes the focus of the bad guy's threats, Meehan unleashes her fury and puts her all into seeing that justice is delivered right up to the tense but overly theatrical end.
Even if the essential mystery in Mina's latest is much more lightweight than her previous work, Slip of the Knife makes for a fast-paced and entertaining read.
- Amazon readers rating: from 25 reviews
"The Dead Hour"
(Reviewed by Poornima Apte SEP 30, 2006)
Paddy Meehan, graveyard shift reporter for the Scottish Daily News, has a problem. Right from the start, something seems to be not quite right about what initially seemed to be a routine night call. First they were in Bearsden, a rich suburb to the north of Glasgow, a neighborhood not known for crime. Second, the blonde whom she saw for a moment at the door has blood on her neck but doesn’t seem to be looking for a way out. Worse, a well-dressed man at the door presses a fifty-pound note in Paddy’s hands. “I can’t stress how important it is that this doesn’t get in the paper,” he says.
Before she has had a chance to process it all, Paddy knows she has committed one of the most serious violations in journalism—she has accepted a bribe. But it’s important to put it in perspective. A rookie reporter, she is the sole earning member of a large family in an economically depressed city and “fifty quid could solve a host of problems.” Nevertheless she knows she has to figure out how to return the money and plans on doing so. The weight of all that barely sinks in when Paddy finds out the next day: the blonde, Vhari Burnett, has been murdered.
Through the rest of the novel it’s up to Paddy to investigate why Vhari, who had an opportunity to leave a dangerous situation, didn’t, who killed her and why, and why the police are not chasing the obvious leads. All at a time when the newspaper is going through a thinning operation and she would be the first one to go if news of her bribe ever got out.
The Dead Hour is the second book by Scottish author Denise Mina in which Paddy Meehan makes an appearance. One need not have read the first novel (Field of Blood) to follow this one. Even if the ending is a little subtle and abrupt, The Dead Hour is a superlative read—for its layered suspense alone, which Mina delivers extremely well.
But Mina’s writing makes the novel more than that. Paddy is a beautifully realized character—one struggling to find her way in life and work, and battling with her weight. There are moments of humanity that shine through in the novel as in the time Paddy takes her mother for a show in the city and buys her an extra special treat—lemon bonbons. Mina says volumes about the Meehan family in the soup that mom, Trisha, brings for Paddy on a visit. “Soup had a talismanic quality: the poor man’s filler, source of vegetables, and, because it took so much time to chop the veg and soak the peas and featured meat, a short-hand for loving concern in a family where affection was never spoken of.”
The Dead Hour is also a subtle reflection on class. Up until the end, Paddy lives with the guilt that Vhari Burnett was not very different from her own sister, Caroline, a regular victim of domestic abuse, and that she had assumed otherwise. As Mina writes, “In the time to come she would burn with shame when she remembered her absolute conviction that the bloodied woman in the mirror was nothing whatever to do with her.” After all, as Paddy finds out, the bloodied woman, Vhari Burnett, “came from money.”
- Amazon readers rating: from 30 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
Maureen O'Donnell series:
Paddy Meehan Series:
- Sanctum (U.K.) (2002) / Deception (in U.S.) (2004)
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- Official website for the Denise Mina
- Wikipedia page on Denise Mina
- British Council Arts on Denise Mina
- ComicCritique.com interview with Denise Mina (2006)
- Trashotron review of Garnethill
- MostlyFiction.com review of Still Midnight
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About the Author:
Denise Mina was born in Glasgow in 1966. Because of her father's job as an engineer, the family followed the north sea oil boom of the seventies around Europe, moving twenty one times in eighteen years from Paris to the Hague, London, Scotland and Bergen. She left school at sixteen and did a number of poorly paid jobs: working in a meat factory, bar maid, kitchen porter and cook. Eventually she settled in auxiliary nursing for geriatric and terminal care patients.
At twenty one she passed exams, got into study Law at Glasgow University and went on to research a PhD thesis at Strathclyde University on the ascription of mental illness to female offenders, teaching criminology and criminal law in the mean time.
Misusing her grant she stayed at home and wrote a novel, Garnethill when she was supposed to be studying instead. Garnethill won the Crime Writers' Association John Creasy Dagger for the best first crime novel.
Besides writing novels, Denise wirtes short sotries, which have appeared in various anthologies, as well as graphic novels and plays.
Mina is the mother of two young children and lives in Glasgow, Scotland.