Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Dead Hour - Denise Mina

The Dead Hour
Denise Mina
Little, Brown

Mystery - Contemporary Scotland

Three years ago, Paddy Meehan, then still a teenager, managed to uncover the killer(s) of a small boy in her hometown of Glasgow. (“Field of Blood,” 2005) These days, she’s a reporter, working for the Scottish Daily News. After five months on the night shift, following up on police calls, she’s starting to feel a bit out of sync with the rest of the world. She believes she’s hit on a big story when she follows the police to a posh neighborhood on a disturbance call. At the front door of the imposing home is a very attractive man. Inside, is a blonde woman with a bloody face, who refuses help. Not unexpectedly, the man asks both the police and Paddy to keep things quiet. What is unexpected is the fifty pound note he presses into Paddy’s hand. She’s shocked, but work is scarce in Glasgow in 1984, and with Paddy the only employed person in her six-member family, the money is desperately needed.

The following morning, Paddy sees the news on television. The blonde, Vhari Burnett, a prosecutor and political activist, is dead. Murdered. Paddy is wracked by the guilty knowledge that she left the woman to her fate for fifty pounds. She wants to make things right. If she admits to the bribe, not only will her career as a journalist be over, but the police officers at the scene will be impacted, as well.

Her dilemma increases when the body of a suicide is pulled from the river. The man, a friend of the dead lawyer, leaves a note in which he expresses regret for having let her down. The police seem to take this as an admission of guilt. When Paddy discovers that Gordon Sullivan, the officer in charge of the investigation, isn’t quite so sure about this pat solution, she joins forces with him. They’re not alone in their belief that the killer is still free. Kate, Vhari’s drug-addicted sister, is terrified and on the run from the killer.

Paddy is an interesting and unique character. She’s a young woman with morals, ethics, and a real sense of justice. Her ambivalence at accepting the money is quite real; her horror the next morning is palpable. The author does an excellent job at depicting Glasgow in 1984, complete with the economic and social pressures impacting young women. The point-of-view shifts from Paddy to Kate are executed flawlessly and, far from being distracting, add an extra layer of perception to the story that would be impossible were it only shown through Paddy’s eyes. Not only the story of the hunt for a killer, but the story of a young woman’s search for her place in the world, “The Dead Hour” is a feast for mystery lovers. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9
July 2006
ISBN# 0-316-73594-9 (hardcover)

Rating Scale = 1-10


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