Mina, Denise 1966-
Mina, Denise 1966-
Born 1966, in Glasgow, Scotland; daughter of James (an oil engineer); partner of a forensic psychologist; children: Fergus, Owen. Education: Received law degree from Glasgow University; attended Strathclyde University (Ph.D. program).
Home—Glasgow, Scotland. Agent—The Sayle Literary Agency, 1 Petersfield, Cambridge CB1 1BB, England. Casarotto, Ramsay & Associates, Waverley House, 7-12 Noel St., London W1F 8GQ, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, novelist, playwright, and comic book writer. Formerly worked in a meat factory, as a hospice nurse in geriatric and terminal-care nursing homes, as a bartender, as a cook, and as a university tutor in criminology and criminal law.
John Creasey Memorial Dagger for best first crime novel, Crime Writers' Association, 1998, for Garnethill: A Novel of Crime; Macallan Short Story Dagger, Crime Writers' Association, 1998, for "Helena and the Babies"; Scotland on Sunday/Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award, 2000.
Garnethill, Bantam (London, England), 1998, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1999.
Exile, Bantam (London, England), 2000, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2001.
Resolution, Bantam (London, England), 2001, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2002.
Sanctum, Bantam (London, England), 2002, published as Deception, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2005.
"PADDY MEEHAN" SERIES
The Field of Blood, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2005.
The Dead Hour, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2006.
Hurtle (radio play), BBC Radio 4, 2003.
Also author of play, Ida Tamson, an adaptation of one of the author's short stories and produced as part of the Oran Mor "A Play, a Pie, and a Pint" series, Radio 4. Author of scripts for DC Comics' series Hellblazer, published in graphic novel form as Empathy is the Enemy and The Red Right Hand. Also author of graphic novel A Sickness in the Family, DC Comics. Contributor of short stories to anthologies, including Fresh Blood 2, Do-Not Press, 1999; short stories and plays have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4.
Scottish novelist Denise Mina entered the literary scene in 1998, winning two awards from the Crime Writers' Association: one for the short story "Helena and the Babies" and another for her first novel, Garnethill. Set in Mina's native Glasgow, Scotland, Garnethill draws on the author's experiences as a nurse and a teacher of criminal law to bring a "world of drug dealers, broken families, sanctimonious healthcare workers, and debilitated victims to startling life," explained a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Garnethill revolves around Maureen O'Donnell, a former sexual abuse victim and mental patient who, eight months after being released from a three-year stay in a psychiatric hospital, awakes to find one of her doctors murdered in her living room. O'Donnell had been having an affair with the doctor, Douglas Brady, and the police, Douglas's mother, and even Maureen's mother think that she must be the murderer. Maureen wants to prove her innocence, but to do that she must figure out who would have wanted Douglas dead. In doing so, Maureen uncovers a series of horrid crimes in which Douglas was involved. The book "is not physically violent," Katy Munger noted in Washington Post Book World, "but its emotional rawness and visceral honesty pack a punch far more potent than any boxer-turned-PI could provide."
Exile, the sequel to Garnethill, finds Maureen working at a shelter for victims of domestic abuse and trying to ignore the intimidation directed at her by Douglas's murderer. A client, Ann Harris, disappears (her body is later found floating in the Thames River), and Maureen and coworker Leslie decide to investigate her murder. Ann's boyfriend, Jimmy, who is also Leslie's cousin, seems to be the prime suspect, but Maureen and Leslie discover that Ann was involved in a drug-smuggling ring. "Mina … writes with absolute assurance and clarity about mean streets and hard lives," commented Booklist's Connie Fletcher, and Library Journal contributor Bob Lunn thought that Exile would be "a good suggestion for anyone who appreciates their mysteries dark."
The third novel in the "Garnethill" trilogy, the appropriately titled Resolution, wraps up the events of Garnethill and Exile while introducing a new mystery. Angus Farrell, the psychologist who murdered Douglas Brady in Garnethill, is facing trial, and Maureen is worried that he may seek revenge for her damaging testimony. Maureen is also concerned about her ability to help care for the baby that her sister Una is expecting, especially since Maureen's abusive father, Michael, is back in town. Maureen's major source of income at the moment is illegally selling cigarettes in a flea market, and this job embroils her in another mystery when she agrees to help Ella McGee, a nearly illiterate merchant in a neighboring stall, fill out legal paperwork filing a complaint against Ella's son, Simon. Then Ella is found beaten to death, and Maureen worries that Simon might come after her as well. Like Garnethill and Exile, Resolution is "powerful, disturbing, [and] wrenching," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer described it. However, Times Literary Supplement contributor Natasha Cooper discerned a different side to the novel. "Mina re-creates this grim world with absolute credibility," Cooper explained, "but also with wit and a warmth rare in even the most optimistic of cozy crime novels. There are few writers who could bring off so tricky a balancing act."
In contrast to the "Garnethill" novels, Sanctum (published in the United States as Deception) is set in middle-class Scotland, where, again, the topic is murder. Lachlan Harriot's wife, Susie, a forensic psychiatrist, has been convicted of murdering a serial killer who was in her care, and Lachlan is going through her papers trying to build an appeal both to the murder conviction and to the accusation that Susie had a sexual relationship with the man. The story is told through Lachlan's diaries and through documents that he finds in Susie's study, including emails, newspaper stories, and records of court proceedings. As he pores through Susie's papers and other materials, Lachlan uncovers more and more unpleasant secrets about his wife, yet neither the protagonist nor the narrator are sure if these secrets are true. Mina also recounts the couple's early life together and how Lachlan gave up his job to become caretaker for their daughter, Margie. His efforts to find material that will prove his wife's innocence are diverted by a fling with the couple's au pair, Yeni. A Publishers Weekly reviewer described him as a "charming, comic, intelligent narrator," someone who "might happily see his wife rot in prison, not for murder, but for the greater sin of rejecting him." Lachlan "is a wonderfully, engrossingly, unreliable narrator," Heather O'Donoghue wrote in Times Literary Supplement; he "is an extraordinary creation, a mixture of raw, touching frankness and hilarious creepiness; but heartbreaking at the same time." However, O'Donoghue continued, "Mina's tour de force is a daring and perfectly unequivocal shift of emphasis away from the question of who did the murder" and towards Lachlan's increasing suspicion that his wife loathed him. With Lachlan as the focus, the book is "as much an intriguing character study as it is an expertly plotted mystery," observed Ellen Shapiro in People. A Kirkus Reviews critic named Deception "a memorable portrait of a foundering marriage, as well as an unnervingly accomplished puzzler: the best yet from a still-rising star." Entertainment Weekly reviewer Ken Tucker styled it a "stand-alone shocker that's exhilarating in its energetic, witty sordidness." Mina's novel is "simply brilliant," declared a reviewer for the London Observer.
The Field of Blood introduces new series character Patricia "Paddy" Meehan, a young female reporter on a Glasgow newspaper who battles her weight, her insincere colleagues, and her own concepts of good and evil. The eighteen-year-old Paddy has a strong moral sensibility and a keen wit, and she is particularly intolerant of injustice. Her position on the paper, however, consists of being little more than a gofer and the object of jokes and taunts by senior colleagues and practicing reporters. A brutal murder involving three young boys involves her in a dangerous investigation. Three-year-old Brian Wilcox is dead, having been lured to his death in a remote field by two slightly older boys (a ten and eleven-year-old) who beat him to death and left his body on a train track. Shaken by the nature of the crime, she is further shocked to realize that one of the boys involved in the murder is related to her fiance, Sean Ogilvy. Paddy inadvertently tells another reporter, Heather Allen, about the connection, Heather does a story on it, causing Paddy some conflict with her own family. Drawn in by the personal connection and convinced that the police are not doing their job, Paddy joins up with fellow reporter Terry Hewitt, known to be particularly scornful of Paddy's weight, and takes up her own investigation into the sensational crime. In pursuing her investigation, Paddy does not mind impersonating the blonde, beautiful Heather Allen on the phone, but this masquerade eventually has deadly consequences. In the background, another case unfolds: that of another Paddy Meehan, a criminal recently released from seven years in solitary confinement. "Mina is a ruthlessly accomplished surgeon of souls who can strip her living characters as bare as Patricia Cornwell does her corpses," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. She "spins the complexities in the rough music of her working-class Scots, unsparing of brutal details, but unfailingly elegant in her humanity," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Throughout Mina's story, "the character development is lovely and the eye for Glaswegian detail wonderful," commented Daniel Fierman in Entertainment Weekly.
Paddy Meehan returns in The Dead Hour. Now a crime reporter for the Scottish Daily News, she still takes abuse about her weight and her junior status from her older, more jaded newspaper colleagues, who call her such names as "wee hen." Paddy inadvertently becomes involved in bribery when she investigates a domestic disturbance report during her rounds. Arriving at the scene at an upscale residence, Paddy sees the police take a bribe from the man who answered the door. As she works to ask a few questions, Paddy sees an obviously abused woman standing behind the man. Abruptly, he presses a bloody fifty-pound banknote into her hand and shuts the door. Bewildered, Paddy leaves with the much-needed money, but realizes afterward that it will look like she has taken a bribe to back off from the story. She fears she will lose the job that supports her entire family if her editor finds out about the bribe, and there is little comfort for her in the fact that the police also accepted hush-money. Paddy's worry turns to guilt when the battered woman she saw is found dead, her teeth extracted and the back of her head bashed in. When the police decide that a dead man they pull from the river is the killer, Paddy realizes that the drowned suicide is not the same man who gave her the money and in all likelihood is not the murderer. Determined to find the truth and bring the killer to justice, Paddy strikes off on her own focused and single-minded investigation.
In her second appearance, Paddy "holds up as a refreshingly realistic character that readers will eagerly embrace—warts, neuroses, and all," observed Booklist reviewer Frank Sennett. A Publishers Weekly contributor called Paddy "one of the most entertaining reporter sleuths in recent crime fiction." This novel, noted Janet Maslin in the New York Times, "takes its heroine a long way. She is nobody's hen by the end of the story. With regret but determination, she has edged at least part of the way out of the Meehan nest. And she is moving into the boys' club dominated by her male colleagues." As a writer, Mina "meticulously creates a bleak, Dostoevskian world abandoned by light and spirit, populating it with sharply drawn characters," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1999, Budd Arthur, review of Garnethill, p. 1483; January 1, 2001, Connie Fletcher, review of Exile, p. 925; July, 2004, Connie Fletcher, review of Deception, p. 1825; June 1, 2005, Connie Fletcher, review of Field of Blood, p. 1761; May 1, 2006, Fran Sennett, review of The Dead Hour, p. 36.
Books, Christmas, 2002, review of Sanctum, p. 21.
California Bookwatch, November, 2006, "Highbridge Audio," audiobook review of The Dead Hour.
Entertainment Weekly, August 20, 2004, Ken Tucker, review of Deception, p. 133; July 15, 2005, Daniel Fierman, review of Field of Blood, p. 79; July 1, 2006, Adam B. Vary and Will Boisvert, "In the Corpse of Human Events," review of The Dead Hour, p. 83.
Hollywood Reporter, June 12, 2006, Jerry Bartell, "Women, Take Your Mark," review of The Dead Hour, p. 14.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 1999, review of Garnethill, pp. 334-335; May 1, 2002, review of Resolution, p. 620; June 15, 2004, review of Deception, p. 560; May 15, 2005, review of Field of Blood, p. 566; June 1, 2006, review of The Dead Hour, p. 551.
Library Bookwatch, September, 2005, "Highbridge Audio," audiobook review of Field of Blood.
Library Journal, March 15, 1999, Bob Lunn, review of Garnethill, p. 110; February 15, 2001, Bob Lunn, review of Exile, p. 202; May 15, 2002, Bob Lunn, review of Resolution, p. 126; July, 2004, Michele Leber, review of Deception, p. 72; June 15, 2005, Bob Lunn, review of Field of Blood, p. 59; June 15, 2006, Jane la Plante, review of The Dead Hour, p. 64.
New York Times, July 17, 2006, Janet Maslin, "Learning to Dance through the Ethical Quicksand," review of The Dead Hour, p. E6; July 22, 2006, Dinitia Smith, "The Writer Who is Raising the Bar on Scottish Fiction," profile of Denise Mina, p. B7.
New York Times Book Review, June 3, 2001, review of Exile, p. 31; June 23, 2002, Marilyn Stasio, review of Resolution, p. 18; July 10, 2005, Marilyn Stasio, review of Field of Blood, p. 31, and Ihsan Taylor, review of Deception, p. 32.
Observer (London, England), December 29, 2002, review of Sanctum, p. 16.
People, August 23, 2004, Ellen Shapiro, review of Deception, p. 49; August 1, 2005, Joe Heim, review of Field of Blood, p. 43; July 10, 2006, "Summer's Hottest Reads," review of The Dead Hour, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, March 1, 1999, review of Garnethill, p. 63; January 1, 2001, review of Exile, p. 70; April 29, 2002, review of Resolution, p. 45; July 26, 2004, review of Deception, p. 39; May 9, 2005, review of Field of Blood, p. 37, and Nancy Weber, "Tartan Noir," interview with Denise Mina, p. 40; May 8, 2006, review of The Dead Hour, p. 46.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, April, 2005, review of Deception.
Scotland on Sunday, April 23, 2006, Mark Fisher, "Careful with that Axe …," interview with Denise Mina.
Times Literary Supplement, December 14, 2001, Natasha Cooper, review of Resolution, p. 20; January 17, 2003, Heather O'Donoghue, review of Sanctum, p. 20.
Washington Post Book World, June 20, 1999, Katy Munger, review of Garnethill, p. 6.
BBC News Online,http://news.bbc.co.uk/ (March 10, 2007), "Denise Mina."
Contemporary Writers,http://www.contemporarywriters.com/ (March 10, 2007), "Denise Mina."
Crime Time,http://www.crimetime.co.uk/ (March 10, 2007), "Sexual Slavery in Glasgow: Denise Mina on Her Work, Resolution."
Denise Mina Home Page,http://www.denisemina.co.uk (March 10, 2007).