Conviction by Denise Mina

And… action!

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

As Anna does all her usual early morning tasks, she’s expecting this to be a routine day. But then her best friend, Estelle, turns up at the door, and her husband, Hamish, comes downstairs with a suitcase and an announcement – he’s leaving Anna and going off with Estelle, taking the kids with him. Left alone and feeling shattered, Anna looks for something to distract her mind, and begins listening to a true-crime podcast. She’s amazed to discover that an old friend of hers, Leon, is at the centre of the story – as victim, or murderer, or perhaps both. With nothing better to do and not wishing to dwell on her broken life, Anna sets off to look up old acquaintances and do a bit of digging. Along the way she acquires a travelling companion – Estelle’s abandoned husband, Fin…

There are some dark elements to the story – rape, murder, suicide, anorexia – but the tone is surprisingly light. In the hands of someone less skilled I might have said too light – the handling of the anorexia in particular veered close to being a bit too jocular at times, even though I thought it was a quite realistic portrayal. But Mina keeps the book rattling along as such a pace that there’s no time to dwell on the bleaker themes – this is very much an action thriller. We soon learn that Anna is a woman with a past, one that has damaged her but made her strong. She’s a survivor, and since she quickly decides she’s not going to wallow in misery over her marriage, the reader is happily saved from wallowing with her.

Like all thrillers, the less you know going in the more you’ll enjoy it, so I won’t go too deeply into the story. Anna’s past soon erupts into the present and, as she and Fin hunt for the truth about Leon’s death, she in turn becomes hunted by the people she has been hiding from for years. It becomes a dangerous race across Europe as they begin to suspect that past and present might be connected in some way. Anna and Fin are an unlikely pairing (as Anna would be the first to point out) and their interactions add a lot to the humour and give the book its warmth. There’s an enjoyable mix of excitement and humour, with some serious moments to keep it grounded, and the tension gradually builds to an excellent (if improbable) and totally unexpected dénouement.

Denise Mina

OK, credibility got thrown overboard fairly early on and, after struggling to the surface a couple of times, finally sank without trace. If you’re looking for deep and meaningful, this isn’t it, despite it touching on some of the themes of the moment. But I found it thoroughly enjoyable, fast-paced and fun, and very well written. This is only the second Mina I’ve read, the other being the darkly realistic The Long Drop, and I find it hard to imagine two books more different in tone and style. I’m looking forward to getting to know her work better and, meantime, happily recommend this one. If Hitchcock were still with us, he could make it into a great film…

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Harvill Secker.

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Book 9 of 20

25 thoughts on “Conviction by Denise Mina

  1. Wow. This book seems to hit on a lot of gritty elements. Does the character just happen to listen to a podcast involving her friend? Was that element woven into the story in a credible way?

    • Yes, I felt that some of the elements were too dark for the light tone, although the quality of her writing made it work. The podcast bit was done very well – he was a friend from long ago that she’d lost touch with, so it wasn’t too unbelievable that this was the first time she’d heard what happened to him…

  2. As you know, FictionFan, I normally don’t go for books if my disbelief can’t sit right next to me. But this does sound like a great story. And, as is pretty much always the case with Mina, the characters sound terrific – strong and multidimensional. I do like that in a novel. I’m very glad the pace worked for you, too.

    • I normally struggle with credibility too, so it’s a tribute to her writing that she managed not to lose me. Once I started thinking of it like an old Hitchcock thriller I was able to put my doubts to one side and go along for the ride. Very different to what I was expecting from her, though…

  3. This sounds fun, I might check it out. Mina is a bit of a hit or a miss with me. I’ve really enjoyed her stand alone novels, but I’ve never been able to get into her series, as I’ve struggled to warm to the main characters. Anna sounds quite refreshing, so I’ll give her a try.

    • I’ve only read her two latest books. Her earlier series didn’t appeal much to me because they’re all “Gritty Glasgow” and as a Glaswegian I’m so fed up with the city constantly being portrayed as violent, squalid and run by gangsters! It’s such an outdated stereotype. But I loved The Long Drop, based on our most famous serial killer back when Glasgow was really like that, and this one was very different, but fun…

      • I completely agree about the extremely tiresome and outdated depictions of Glasgow, and indeed Scotland as being full of nothing but gangsters, thugs and people with no inspiration, as we’re really not all like that. It’s partly why I stopped reading Mina’s earlier novels, and the reason for my intense dislike of our Scottish soap opera, River City.

        • Ah, I don’t think I’d realised you’re a fellow Scot! I should have known, because obviously all the best people are… 😉 Yes, I find I avoid lots of Scottish crime writers because I don’t recognise the Scotland they’re writing about. I can only assume they’re not writing for a Scottish audience, which seems a pity.

  4. I’ve not had much luck with Mina; she has always seemed to dark for me. I was going to ask you for a recommendation as to where to start with her until I reached your final comments. No help there then. 😉

    • Ha! No, although several people have recommended her Paddy Meehan books to me in the past. I thought The Long Drop was really excellent, but definitely dark. This one is much lighter and really mostly for fun – less memorable but certainly entertaining…

  5. Credibility is something I don’t have to have in a mystery/thriller (but yes, in historical fiction). You’ve piqued my curiosity and this will probably end up on the wish list. Maybe even the TBR pile. 😉

    • I can easily get hung up on credibility so it’s a tribute to her writing that she didn’t lose me halfway through. But this felt like a Hitchcock thriller or a Harlan Coben – fast and action-packed enough to stop me having time to be too picky…:D

  6. Not sure this would be my cup of tea. All those dark motifs, especially if they’re handled too lightly, might be too depressing for a summer read. Glad you enjoyed it though!

    • It was odd to have so many dark themes in what is essentially a light thriller, but she managed to keep me onside anyway, which is a tribute to the quality of her writing. It was totally not what I was expecting from her though…

    • Yes, I saw it hadn’t really worked so well for you. I don’t think it’s one that will really stay in my mind for long, but I enjoyed it – it reminded me of Hitchcock thrillers…

  7. This sounds a fun light read, despite the dark elements. I was interested in your Hitchcock comment because as I was reading your review I was thinking it would be a good film. I hope whoever is in charge of such things is paying attention to you & they adapt it soon – especially as it will feature your beautiful city!

    • Lots of running about the Highlands too, and then across Europe – I did feel it was very Hitchcock-y, though his characters would have rather less angst to contend with! Good fun, though, and not at all what I was expecting from Denise Mina…

    • I haven’t read much either – just this and The Long Drop and they’re so different from each other it’s like a different author! I hope you enjoy this one – I thought it was good fun. 😀

  8. I’ve only read one book by Mina and I was so disappointed with it because despite its Glasgow setting the city didn’t make any impact at all, it could have been anywhere and the unique character of Glaswegians was missing too. I learned recently that she just lives in Glasgow but isn’t a Glaswegian – it shows.

    • Really? I thought she was a Glaswegian! I’ve only read this, and very little of it is set in Glasgow, and The Long Drop – her book about Peter Manuel which I must say I thought was wonderful. Her earlier crime books haven’t wildly appealed to me – I do get tired of “Gritty Glasgow” crime fiction…

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