Still Midnight

by Denise Mina

Glasgow detective Alex Morrow is not only a woman doing a “copper’s job,” her father is dying in prison and her half-brother runs a crooked security business.

Her family has given her the chill because she joined the police; her law enforcement peers give her the chill because she’s a woman and possibly better at the job than they are.

She grew up in the wrong Glasgow neighborhood, and doesn’t have the right connections to climb the police ranks the political way.

Her boss promised her the next big case. But when a call comes in about a shooting and kidnaping, he gives the lead to Alex’s peer, DS Grant Bannerman.

As the facts are collected, though, it begins to look as if Alex got the best end of the deal. The police learn that two nervous, bumbling men waving guns have invaded the modest Anwar home demanding a person named “Bob.” Not finding Bob, they then kidnap the tiny patriarch of the family, Amir, and demand £2 million for his return.

In the process, they shoot the hand of the 16-year-old daughter. Her brother Omar Anwar and his friend Mohamed, who have been sitting in a car parked around the corner waiting for the Ramadan fast to end for the day, come rushing in.

The intruders escape. Omar and Mo quickly follow. When they spot a police car, they pull over and spew out their story about the kidnapping. The police, seeing a pair of brown-skinned young men in odd clothes with an unbelievable story, take them down to the station. The kidnappers continue down the freeway.

Altogether, the case seems nonsensical. Is it mistaken identity? Drugs? Are witnesses lying?

Mina has created an intriguing mystery with few clues for the police to build on. Her characterizations are rich with depth and detail. As the kidnapped Amir sits in the back of a Lexus with a pillow case over his head, he remembers his escape from Uganda as a boy.  He and his mother had British passports and were headed for the airport in a taxi when they were stopped by soldiers at a road block. The soldiers took his mother away and gang raped her and scattered the contents of their suitcases. She returned to the taxi sobbing and bleeding and they continued on to the airport.

Amir realizes he never understood her fear before and what she suffered for his sake. He feels her presence intensely as he endures captivity and a beating from the kidnappers.

Mina balances the absurdities of the crime with the seriousness of its impact on the family brilliantly. She also has a skillful and subtle touch in developing the themes of racism and bias against women. She never turns the story into a polemic. This is an absorbing read that whetted my appetite for the next book in the series.

Other books that follow Still Midnight in this series are:

  • The End of the Wasp Season. As the global economy falters, Morrow investigates the brutal murder of a woman in an expensive Glasgow suburb. Does it have a connection with the suicide of a failed banker? This book won the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award.
  • Gods and Beasts. Back at work after the birth of her twins, Morrow is faced with solving the murder of a grandfather in a post office raid — a raid the victim appeared to be helping. The police force itself is in turmoil and a corrupt politician is fighting for his career. This book also won the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award.
  • Red Road. Morrow, now a detective inspector, uncovers a vicious network of power and corruption going back 20 years — to the night Princess Diana died and a 14-year-old girl sat in a car with a dead body, the murder weapon still in her hand.
  • Blood Salt Water. Morrow is called to a deceptively quaint Victorian town to investigate a murdered woman’s body that surfaces in Loch Lomond.

The Author: Denise Mina (1966 – )

Although born in Glasgow, Denise Mina’s father’s engineering job caused the family to move 21 times in 18 years following the North Sea oil boom of the 1970s. Mina lived in Glasgow, Paris, Invergordon, London, Bergen, Norway; and Perth.

Mina left school at 16. For five years, she worked various jobs in a meat factory, a bar, a kitchen and a home for geriatric and hospice patients. At 21, she passed the exams to study law at Glasgow University. She did research on the attribution of mental illness to female offenders for a doctoral dissertation at Strathclyde University. She also taught criminology and criminal law.

While working on her doctorate, she started a novel, Garnethill, which won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy Dagger for the best first crime novel. It was followed by Exile and Resolution to complete a trilogy featuring Maureen O’Donnell.

She began a second series in 2005 featuring Paddy Meehan, an aspiring reporter on the Scottish Daily News, a fictional Glasgow newspaper in the 1980s. Paddy starts out in The Field of Blood as a copygirl aspiring to be an investigative journalist; becomes a night shift reporter in The Dead Hour and hits the big time as a leading columnist in The Last Breath.

Her book The Long Drop is based on fact: serial killer Peter Manuel’s murders in Glasgow during the 1950s. To date, she has published 12 novels and also writes short stories, plays and graphic novels. She presents TV and radio programs and has made a film about her family.

In 2014, she was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame.


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