Review: The Dead Hour by Denise Mina

28 August 2007


The Dead HourPaddy Meehan is the kind of character who stays in your brain and has you wanting more. Like Maureen O’Donnell in Denise Mina’s earlier Garnethill trilogy, Paddy is a plucky battler in a grim Glasgow. The Dead Hour is set in Thatcher’s Britain against the backdrop of epoch-ending changes to the newspaper world.

This is the second of Denise Mina’s books about Paddy Meehan, who has moved from a copy boy at a traditional daily newspaper to being the night shift crime reporter. Although it’s recognised that the night shift is there only as insurance against the death of the Queen Mother or similarly major event, Paddy does take it seriously as a stepping stone to something better.

While attending a police call-out to a noise complaint, Paddy sees an injured woman, but does nothing, nor do the police. The rest of the book is a tense and thrilling unravelling of events at the house and subsequently. Thanks to the author, we get to see the action from the vantage points of different characters directly involved in the story and the chain of tragic actions that underpin it. This means that we get to see and appreciate the dogged and clever way that Paddy works through what she knows and sees in order to resolve the story, at some risk to herself.

T he brilliance of the writing is in the way that Paddy’s character and spirit are conveyed by her interactions with the journalists and police, family and friends that make up her Glasgow. The lives of poor, unemployed, Irish Catholics, the corruption of some policemen but the dedication of others, the unthinking chauvinism of the men she works with, not to mention her own battles with food and figure, and her engagement with them, all make Paddy Meehan a memorable character.

But its not just Paddy. All of the characters are carefully drawn – the cocaine queen Kate, who brings it all about, Paddy’s ex-boyfriend Sean, her mother Tricia, the policeman George Burns, who is also a comedian and more, and Farquarson, the editor – and the plot rattles along to a conclusion. There are a couple of stings to the tail to ponder about for the next book in the series, The Last Breath. I can’t wait.

Details: Publisher: Bantam Books; ISBN-10: 0553818937; ISBN-13: 978-0553818932

Other novels by Denise Mina:

Garnethill, Exile, Resolution – Garnethill trilogy; Sanctum; The Field of Blood – Paddy Meehan