four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
47-July-Aug-2010
By: 
Denise Mina
user_rating: 
0

A-Still Midnight.epsGlasgow-based Denise Mina is the author of the Garnethill trilogy (starring Maureen O'Donnell) and the Patricia "Paddy" Meehan series: A Field of Blood (3.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2005), The Dead Hour (4 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2006), and Slip of the Knife (4 of 5 Stars Selection May/June 2008). Still Midnight is the first in a new series, also set in Glasgow.

The Story: When inexperienced gunmen enter a family's home asking for "Bob," they instead, amid the confusion, kidnap an elderly, Ugandan-born Muslim man named Aamir Anwar, shoot his daughter, and ask for a £2 million ransom as "payback"--"for Afghanistan." Alex Morrow, a smart, but insolent, detective sergeant with the Strathclyde police force, is removed from the case. But Alex--who is still coming to grips with a personal tragedy--outmaneuvers her despised partner, as Aamir, stashed away, reflects on the terror his family experienced in Uganda decades earlier, and the captors consider their own familial relationships and obligations.
Reagan Arthur Books. 352 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 9780316015639

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Only a few days pass over the course of this book, and despite its grim beginnings, the violence is kept to a minimum. ... By switching among the points of view of each of the major players, she reveals the complexities of both the victims' and the criminals' lives, finding an almost common cause in the mix of motives as well as the past and present traumas that drive them all." Clea Simon

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Mina makes a great deal of the racial prejudices that poison community police work, but her grimly funny plot really turns on the eccentricities of her unpredictable characters. ... The amateur villains of this tragicomic piece are drawn with the same wry compassion and bleak humor." Marilyn Stasio

Times (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Mina's characterisation is superb. Alex Morrow deserves her own trilogy. At least." Marcel Berlins

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Still Midnight isn't the Scottish novelist's best book--that would be Field of Blood--but you can feel the intelligence, sweat, and research she poured into it. Mina brings to life not just the great, gloomy new heroine Alex Morrow, who's awkwardly navigating the bickering Glasgow police force, but also a Muslim family, whose patriarch gets kidnapped by men stupid enough to do real damage." Jeff Giles

Guardian (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Mina is acutely sensitive to characters' mental states, rendering them with a precision which blurs the line between heroism and villainy. At the same time, her prose is both nimble and muscular." John O'Connell

Critical Summary

Critics called Still Midnight an auspicious debut to Mina's new police procedural series, and its heroine "just as beguiling as O'Donnell and Meehan"--and just as dark, rude, and troubled by gender politics (Times). Although the novel contains the same wry wit and compassion that mark her other books, here Mina casts a sharp eye on her characters' mental states, blurring the lines between the villains and the good guys as she explores their life trajectories. The only criticism was that this focus on inner motives and personal tragedies overwhelms the plot. A minor complaint: critics are anxiously awaiting the next in the series. Also see our discussion of Mina on page 17 of this issue.