four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
34-May-June-2008
By: 
Denise Mina
user_rating: 
0

A-Slip of the KnifeDenise Mina introduced green newspaper copy editor-sleuth Paddy Meehan in Field of Blood ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2005), set in Glasgow in 1981. The Dead Hour (Edgar finalist 4 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2006) followed, endearing the pugnacious Paddy—and the Scottish series—to fans worldwide. Now, in the third novel of Mina’s planned quintet, it’s 1990, and Paddy’s life has improved greatly since her days as a copy editor. Now one of Scotland’s leading newspaper columnists, she is living contently as a single mother—until one night when she finds out that her former lover, Terry, has been murdered, possibly by the IRA. She is even more stunned to discover that he left her his country cottage and private notebooks. As Paddy starts connecting the dots in his murder that nobody else seems to see, she becomes embroiled in dangerous secrets. At the same time, a child killer she knew from Field of Blood leaves prison, she tries to protect her young son’s life—and more people die.
Little, Brown. 352 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 031601558X

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Mina excels at this kind of writing, the back-and-forth of competitors and colleagues, the way tension and love bind people uneasily. She’s a leisurely writer; although Terry’s murder opens the book, the action plays out slowly, and she lets us soak up the abundant ambience and personality." Clea Simon

Independent (London) 4 of 5 Stars
"The element that really shines is the effortless characterization. … Paddy herself, a tough-talking journo holding down a column on one of Scotland’s main newspapers, but struggling with a messy private life and a problem with authority, is one of the most distinctive figures in the crime field." Barry Forshaw

Sunday Times (London) 4 of 5 Stars
"Like the saga as a whole, [Slip of the Knife] reflects the energy of its tabloid press and television industry, its links to Ireland and its citizens’ love of abrasive backchat. Where or not [Mina] consciously conceived her series as antithetical to [Ian] Rankin’s, a sharply contrasting version of Scotland emerges from her droll, vivid and accomplished novels." John Dugdale

Times (London) 4 of 5 Stars
"[Slip of the Knife] is as wonderful as the other two. … Meehan is irresistible, the dialogue sparkles with wit and Mina’s portrayal of edgy Glasgow in 1990 is riveting." Marcel Berlins

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The novel’s plot is a bit raggedy, lacking the snap and tension of some of Mina’s previous works. Then again, watching Paddy careen around Glasgow in too-tight skirts, dress down sinister thugs in pubs … enjoy a more robust love life than tubby women in literature are usually permitted is entertainment enough." Jennifer Reese

Critical Summary

In their reviews of Slip of the Knife (released as The Last Breath in the UK), critics agreed that Paddy Meehan is one rising star. Comparisons to Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus abound, but these more aptly note the Scottish settings and each protagonist’s esteemed place in the genre rather than their personalities (a grumpy, alienated man versus a spunky woman, close to her working-class, Catholic family). Most critics cited compelling idiomatic dialogue, riveting scenes, and full-blooded characters; reviewers particularly praised Mina’s older, wiser Paddy. While Jennifer Reese of Entertainment Weekly criticized a somewhat hackneyed plot, she, too, acknowledged her "helpless [devotion] to Scotland’s most recent contribution to world civilization: cinder-hearted, character-driven crime fiction."