Friday, January 4, 2013

All hail the Scots

My second read for the year has been an older book - Denise Mina's 'Field of Blood' which is the first in her Paddy Meehan series.

I'm a big fan of the crime writers of Northern England and Scotland - bleak, dark and funny. And I'm a fan of Denise Mina who hails from Glasgow and brings this city to life beautifully in her writing.

'Field of Blood', which was published in 2004, is set in 1981 and tells the story of Paddy Meehan, a young Irish Catholic girl who has scored herself a job as copyboy at the local newspaper. She is engaged to Sean Ogilvy and the expectation is that she'll marry Sean, give up work and raise a family. Paddy however has other ideas and sees herself as a future journalist. All she needs is a break.

The break comes when a young boy goes missing. Echoing the infamous James Bolger case, the young boy is found dead, his body brutalised. Two ten year old boys are arrested. One of the boys turns out to be Sean's cousin. Paddy is in a quandary - does she use this link to make her big break and risk angering her family or does she keep quiet?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will hunt down the rest of the books in the series. Paddy is a fantastic character. She's a forthright and smart young woman negotiating her way through the male dominated world of journalism; the suffocating expectations of her family and community; and her own dreams. She makes mistakes and one of those mistakes has catastrophic consequences for a work colleague.

Another fabulous feature of this book is the evocation of journalism in the early eighties. The newspaper Paddy works for is filled with broken down drunks and cynics who are desperately trying to hold back the tide of change, and hungry up-and-comers. We learn the stories of a few of them and some of them like Dr Pete break our hearts.

Mina writes with a true love of her city and the people who live there.

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