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Six Phenomenal Books by Denise Mina

March 27, 2008

My excuse for yesterday was taxes. April 15th is just around the corner, and I really have to finish them up. Somehow, I became the tax expert in the family, so now I have taxes to do for myself plus four. No fun, even with a tax program. I nearly jumped out of my skin this morning when I got an email stating “your state and federal filing have been rejected.” First thought was, “ahhhhhhhhh, audit!” But no, just an inverted number for the employee ein. Whew! So, on to books, with relief.

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I am going to take care of a couple days worth of due “book reports” all at once, and review one of my favorite new (to me) authors, Denise Mina. I only found her late last year, pointed in her direction by a very dear friend. Then I had to read everything Mina had written, asap. Her books hit the mark for me on a few different levels. First, they take place in Scotland, which holds a special place in my heart. Second, they are mysteries, which is my favorite kind of book. Third, they are about women who are real. I mean, they like to eat, they have issues, and they feel fat and self-conscious, and they make mistakes. You know what I mean; real people, only bigger than life.

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The first series Mina wrote is Garnet Hill, Exile, and Resolution, starring Maureen O’Donnell. From the author’s website:

“Maureen O’Donnell wasn’t born lucky. A psychiatric patient and survivor of sexual abuse, she’s stuck in a dead-end job and a secretive relationship with Douglas, a shady therapist. Her few comforts are making up stories to tell her psychiatrist, the company of friends, and the sweet balm of whisky.She is about to end her affair with Douglas when she wakes up one morning to find him in her living room with his throat slit.”

Is she human, or what? You can taste the peat-tinged whiskey, see the smoke from her fag roiling in the air, hear the beginning patter of rain on an overcast day. I love it.

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Okay, next series: The Field of Blood, The Dead Hour, and Slip of the Knife (called The Last Breath in the U.K.) starring Paddy Meehan. If I had to choose, I think I would have to pick Paddy as one of my favorite characters of all time. Again, from the author’s website”

“Paddy Meehan is dreading them finding out. Her family assume that her dogsbody job at the Scottish Daily News is a stop gap between leaving school and her big Catholic wedding to Sean Ogivly, but Paddy lies in bed at night, tracing the patterns in the artexed ceiling and dreams of being a journalist, wearing smart suits and carving a place for herself among the boozy, broken-hearted idealists she fetches and carries for.”

The newsroom of a Scottish paper is very, very foreign. Mina plans to write two more books in this series, thank goodness.

denise1005.jpg A brief biography written by Mina:

“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 settle 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.”

She also writes short stories, plays, graphic novels, and stuff for TV and radio. When asked how she does it, she said:

“…her personal grooming is shameful, her house is filthy and her children run wild in the fields. She found a mushroom in the shower the other day. What sort of woman is that?”

She has a very inviting, unpresumptuous website,

http://www.denisemina.co.uk/

All right wee hen, go on with you now; read a good book whilst you have a nice cup of tea.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 15, 2008 12:01 am

    I’m certainly intrigued and I love her website! Can I gather from your post that you would recommend the second series?

  2. August 15, 2008 2:33 am

    Well. It is hard to choose. I think you should read one of each, and see what you think. Mina is an incredible writer. I never would have thought a newspaper room, even one in Glasgow, could be such a foreign place. Mina’s characters are so very, very, human, too.

  3. August 15, 2008 4:12 am

    Anyone with that cool of a website deserves to have her books checked out in my opinion. I’ll add her to my library list.

  4. August 15, 2008 4:57 am

    I think it is actually the graphic novels that got you……. right?

  5. August 15, 2008 11:15 am

    Actually no, but I thought it was really cool that she was an author who had also written, and seemed really excited about, her work on Hellblazer. It was really two things. One is that the Scottish angle of this second series interested me right away and second I just like the way she looks. As dumb as that may sound she is an intriguing looking woman. I look at her author photos and I think…’I would like to see just what her writing is like’. Superficial..maybe, but I often judge books by their covers and I rarely go wrong by doing so. And I wasn’t kidding about her website. Although she may not have made it I assume she had some hand in it and the creativity of the site also makes me think there would be something of a kindred spirit in her writing.

  6. August 16, 2008 4:47 am

    I definitely agree, her website is great. The first time I looked at it, I was thrown back in time to 1991, and my son and I playing the original black and white version of ‘Spelunx and the Caves of Mr. Seudo’- holy smokes…. I am going to have to admit to enjoying playing a game!! Anyway, you are right about the site. So sorry to falsely accuse of being taken by the graphic novel aspect of her career.

    Both series are set in Scotland – I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on her writing.

  7. August 16, 2008 12:02 pm

    You know I was just kidding, it was actually a great guess about the graphic novel and although I am not a fan of Hellblazer her apparent excitement over it makes me want to pick up this run and see how she did on it.

    And how hilarious…you…and a game!!!! Love it!

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