Friday, April 1, 2011

Field of Blood by Denise Mina

Denise Mina's Field of Blood was a random find I came by in a somewhat local second hand bookstore I visit. She is the first Scottish author I've read, and she set the bar nicely high, (although it did take me a bit to get past some of the terminology and descriptions, I was glad I did). Her writing is beautiful and captivating and I found myself getting lost in conversations and characters. The language just seemed to flow.

One of my favorite parts of the story, and what got me hooked, was the description, and conversation of an antagonistic relationship that started like this:
Pete looked up and frowned, dropping his bushy eyebrows to shade his eyes. "what do you want?"

"Um, I wanted to ask you about something."

"Spit it out and then piss off."

It was not going to be a Love Is...moment, she just knew it.

To a friendly and companionable conversation, ending in this:
Pete spoke quietly. "Please don't go."
"But I need--"
"If you go, Richards'll come over here. It's been a long day, and it's hard work being pitied."

So they sat together, a man facing the end of his life and a young girl struggling to kick start hers. They drank together, and then Paddy started smoking with him. Cigarettes and drink complemented each other perfectly, she discovered, like white bread and peanut butter. She drank an all-time personal best of four half-pints.

they talked about anything that came to mind, their thoughts swimming sympathetically, barely connecting. Patty told hm about the Beatties' stuff in the garage, about how she'd always hated it when she saw the Queen's picture up in offices, because of what she represented. She always saw her smiling and handing out OBE's to the soldiers who shot into the crowd on Bloody Sunday, but she'd looked at the Beatties' portrait of her and thought she might actually be quite a nice woman, doing her best. She talked about her Auntie Ann, who raised money for the IRA with raffle tickets and then went on antiabortion marches.

Dr. Pete talked about a wife who had left for England years before and how she would cook a leg of lamb for special occasions. She stuck the meat with rosemary she grew in their garden and sat potatoes under it to roast in the lamb fat. The meat was as sweet as tablet, as moist as beer; it lingered on the tongue like a prayer. Before he met her he had never eaten food that made him feel as if he had just woken up to the world. The way she cooked that lamb was beautiful. She had black hair and was so slight he could lift her up and swing her over a puddle with one arm around her waist. He hadn't talked about her in a long time.

That one conversation takes up the majority of a chapter and gives a lot of good information about not only the history of the crime, but also about the characters having the conversation. I enjoyed watching that relationship grow, and the characters view of each other change.

I will say, however, the crime committed is a hard and violent one against a very young child. As much as Ms. Mina can use her talent to make you want to taste the succulent roasted lamb, she can also make you see the evil done to someone's baby. Thankfully, it was only to set the beginning of the plot, and the harshness wasn't continued throughout the story.

And, speaking of the story, here's what the side flap says, (because it probably gives a better summery than I would).
The murder of three-year old Brian Wilcox is the saddest story to hit the newspaper in years. Even Paddy Meehan, the new copygirl at the Scottish Daily News,feels the tremors it sends through the jaded newsroom. It's the kind of once-in-a-generation crime that changes a city's landscape-the kind that can make or break a journalist's career.

And Paddy could use a break: her battle for stature in the men's club of the newsroom is going nowhere. So when she discovers a personal connection to one of the young boys implicated in the killing, her job prospects look bright-but at the cost of her family's trust. Loyalty and ambition are at war only briefly, until the secret explodes into public view in the worst possible way. Under siege in the newspaper office and in her own home, Paddy realizes that the only way to make amends is to clear the boy's name, when he's been all but convicted by her colleagues in the media. On her own, and then with the help of charmingly disheveled young beat reporter, Paddy begins an investigation that reveals hidden allegiances and lines of deception that go deep into the past-and that could spell even more horrible crimes in the future if Paddy doesn't get it right.

Denise Mina follows Field of Blood with The Dead Hour and Slip of the Knife, all three being part of the Paddy Meehan series, and according to her website, there are two other books in the series I didn't see mentioned. More, and interesting information about Denise Mina, and Field of Blood can be found here and it can be ordered from Amazon here


seana said...

That gives me a sense of her. I realize I have avoided her because of some of her subject matter, but your commentary rounds her protagonist out a bit. I hope to get to these, especially for the Scottish angle.

Glenna said...

Seana, I've just started the second novel in the series and I'm liking her writing more and more, especially since I have a better feel for the characters now. Also, thankfully, the brutal subject matter doesn't seem to continue in The Dead the first 30 pages anyway.

seana said...

I'll aim for Garnet Hill, then, as soon as I finish a whole slew of Irish crime fiction. Have you got Eightball Boogie on Kindle yet? I'm reading my comfortingly nonvirtual old school book of it. I forget how quick and funny Declan Burke is.

Actually, if you haven't read it, it might be a bit of comic relief after Mina. And apparently on Kindle, it's only 99 cents.

Glenna said...

Yep, I got t on the Kindle when he announced it and then got it in hardcopy when he said he was giving them away. I have a couple of people Im thinking of introducing him to also. And you're right, it'll be nice after a harsh series.

Glenna said...

Update...I've just finished the second in the Paddy Meehan series, and yes, a humorous book would be nice. I'm not sure reading a Scottish crime and Irish crime novel at the same time is a good idea but I might have to give it a try.

seana said...

Well, I'm about halfway through and it's good. And funny. There's violence, but it's not, so far, as graphic or bleak as some of the one's we've both read. But I do wonder how these guys all got so damn clever.

Glenna said...

I just started it, I'm on chapter 4, I think it's going to make a nice interlude between Mina's books. I do like Declan's humor.