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Slip of the Knife

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					"Slip of the Knife," (2007) is third in the Paddy Meehan series of British mysteries,
following on The Field of Blood; (2005), and The Dead Hour (2006), by increasingly
well-known Scottish-born author Denise Mina. She must now be considered a leading
practitioner, in company with Ian Rankin and Val McDermid, of the Scottish crime
writing school that has come to be known as "tartan noir," for its high level of violence,
sheer bloody-mindedness, and grisly, witty humor. Mina burst on the scene with her
debut novel, Garnethill that won the John Creasey Memorial Award; she was born in the
vicinity of Glasgow, where all her novels have so far been set. As a child, her father's
work took her all over the world: she has since, since her return to that city, worked in
the field of health care, studied law at the University of Glasgow, and taught criminal
law and criminology.

"Slip," as all of Mina's production so far, is set in Glasgow, her home town, in 1990. It
picks up the story of Patricia (Paddy) Meehan, erstwhile girl reporter, now successful,
locally famous girl columnist in the shrinking newspaper business. She drinks too much,
eats too much unhealthy food, and is unable to give up smoking: that just makes her a
Scot, along with her countrymen. But she's doing fine, has a son, Pete, and a loving
roommate/friend, Dub, some family troubles. Until the police suddenly notify her that
her old beau/friend/colleague/newspaper rival Terry Hewitt has been brutally murdered,
in an execution style that hints of the Irish Republican Army, who have not been
previously active in Scotland. Hardened crime reporter that she has been, Meehan begins
investigating. At the same time, Callum Ogilvy, cousin of a former beau of Paddy's, who
has been and is a close family friend, is to be released from prison. Newspapers are agog.
Callum has had the misfortune of becoming internationally famous as the result of the
notorious case that forms the core of "Field." Two young boys, of nine and ten, have
tortured and beaten a toddler to death. (Mina has based this on a distressing well-known
true case: the 1990s murder, in Liverpool, England, of little Jamie Bulgar.)

Once again, the author manages to steer her tales to reasonably happy endings, telling
them with verve and skill, in the somewhat dark and violent way that "tartan noir"
predicts. She also perpetuates the Lord Byron festival in which I have recently found
myself living, by quoting his description of their mutual home country as a "Land of
Sophistry and Mist." But this time out, she's really just giving us a mystery. And mystery
lovers could do a lot worse. Any darkness is well-flavored with Mina's outstanding love
for and knowledge of her city, and dry wit.

She once again sets her scene, letting us know how well the city has cleaned up:" For a
century Glasgow had been a byword for deprivation and knife-wielding teenage gangs
but in the past few years the thick coat of black soot had been sandblasted off the old
buildings, revealing their pale yellow sandstone that glittered in the sun, or blood orange
stone that clashed with blue skies. International theater companies and artists had started
coming to the city, colonizing unlikely venues, old churches, schools, markets and
abandoned sheds, places the locals failed to notice every day. Glaswegians no longer felt
as defensive of their home, began to look around with renewed interest, like a partner in
a stale marriage finding out that their spouse was a heartthrob abroad."
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posted:7/12/2010
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