Sunday, April 06, 2014

Denise Mina, THE RED ROAD: Alex Morrow #4, Gritty and Deep

A murder from 1997 -- solved but not really cleared away -- is going to dog Detective Inspector Alex Morrow's current effort to keep a mobbed-up murderer jailed in Glasgow. But she doesn't know it yet, as RED ROADS opens with her court testimony and an unlikely stirring of friendship with Anton Atholl, defense attorney for the notorious Michael Brown. In fact, it's Alex who's sweating and nervous in court this time, but she pulls herself together and does a competent job of testimony.

Back at her boss's office, a shocking discovery threatens to completely derail the case, though. The incarcerated defendant's fingerprints have just been identified -- at a current crime scene. Word of this could do much more than let Michael Brown off his current charges; it could derail all the past convictions related to him, as well as to the prints lab.

Mina ramps up the tension and emotion by exposing the reader, in chapters sandwiched between Alex's experience, to what took place when a 16-year-old sexually abused girl went to prison back in 1997 for a knifing murder -- on the same night that another such murder took place. It will be a long reach within the book's tense timeline until DI Alex Morrow realizes that there are people from the old case, tangentially involved with the new one.

This is the fourth Alex Morrow investigation (although it appears the publisher has "issues" around title number three and isn't mentioning it; go to the author website for the full listing, If you're already hooked on Mina's Glasgow noir, this one may be a hair gentler in terms of gore than others -- but emotionally it packs multiple punches and captures the double-binds of poverty and deprivation that feed back into cruelty. And if you haven't yet sampled Mina's other titles (which also include other investigators), this is actually a really good place to start, rich with imagery and layers of connection. I was sorry to turn the last page.

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