*****Conviction

By Denise Mina – In her new deftly plotted crime thriller, Denise Mina uses a compelling story-within-a-story to draw you in. First-person narrator Anna McDonald lives in Glasgow with husband Hamish and two young daughters. Early one morning, she’s listening to a true-crime podcast about the sinking of the Dana, a private yacht moored in France’s Île de Ré. The boat suffered an explosion below decks and sank, drowning a father and his two grown children.

Anna is a dispassionate listener to this story until it mentions the yacht-owner’s name, Leon Parker. She knows him. Years before, when she worked as a maid at an exclusive Scottish holiday resort, Parker was a guest, and she remembers him fondly. “Oh, God, Leon’s laugh. So dark and wild you could drown a bag of kittens in it.”

Anna can’t reminisce forever, though, she has to awaken the children and her husband and start their day. In a frenzy of morning preparations, Anna finally answers the knock at the door. Her best friend Estelle is there with a roller bag, and Hamish is at the top of the stairs, his own roller bag beside him.

Hamish is leaving her for Estelle. He’s keeping the house and the girls. Anna will get money. Throughout this roller-coaster of a story, Mina effectively conveys Anna’s erratic state of mind, and while her character doesn’t always make the best decisions, you can believe in her. She’s prickly and charming.

And she has secrets. She wasn’t always Anna McDonald. She was Sophie Bukaran until she was raped by four footballers. The case attracted unwanted notoriety, the fans never forgave her, and team owner Gretchen Tiegler tried to get her killed.

Soon Estelle’s husband Fin Cohen arrives. He’s an instantly recognizable member of a popular band who is as well known for being anorexic as for his music. Without thought of logistics or consequences, Anna and Fin launch into a road trip to flee the reminders of their abandonment. As they listen to the podcast episodes in the car, Fin also becomes intrigued with the Dana’s sinking and its reputation of being haunted.

Eventually, the two begin their own series of podcasts, asking new questions about the crime. Thanks to Fin’s celebrity and the almost immediate outing of Anna as Sophie, their forays into pseudo-journalism attract an improbably large audience. Sophie is afraid the attention will spark renewed risk from Tiegler and her minions—not only to her. Her daughters are vulnerable too. Fin tells her she’s being paranoid, until he has a fright of his own. “Now that Fin was scared too, my paranoia never came up again.” Love Sophie’s sly humor!

You’re in for quite an adventure, at times a deadly one, with Mina’s intriguing tale.

For a quirkier side of Glasgow crime, I’d also recommend the entertaining adventure of book store clerk, inadvertent murderer, and fugitive crime-fighter Jen Carter in Russell D. McLean’s Ed’s Dead.

Photo: Jan Alexander from Pixabay.

3 thoughts on “*****Conviction

  1. …and here is your review 🙂
    Happy to see you enjoyed it as much as I did. The blend of ‘vulnerable and bitch’ coming from Mina’s character keeps you on an uneven plane, and I was happy to be there.

    I understand Michael’s comment above, the kittens in a bag had me put on the brakes immediately as I too, am a cat lover. That sentence was quite jarring, however, the book is much more than that one moment, and does not go downhill from there.

  2. Sorry, Vicky, I stopped reading after Parker was a guest, and she remembers him fondly. “Oh, God, Leon’s laugh. So dark and wild you could drown a bag of kittens in it”
    What’s about drowning defenseless animals is “fond?”
    No way I’d pick up somebody with that kind of outlook. I learned a long time ago, if I start reading a book and i don’t like it or I find something like this, i toss it in the trash. I’ve got this writer on my Never Read list.

    • I wouldn’t want my choice of quote to discourage you from reading this award-winning author and her highly entertaining novel! I think the “bag of kittens” refers to the “dark and wild,” not the “fondly.” I say this as a person inordinately fond of cats and kittens myself. As a reader I appreciate a fresh and memorable description, rather than the same old, same old. (You definitely don’t want to read Dean Koontz’s short story “Kittens” in the new Exit Wounds anthology.)

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