Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Brief Mention: Denise Mina, BLOOD SALT WATER

Dave and I mourned the death, earlier this month, of William McIlvanney, a Scottish crime writer whose work forms the classic bedrock of "tartan noir." McIlvanney's grim and gritty police procedurals laid out the conflicts of Scottish urban life and criminal investigation, including the perilous thread that complicates each investigation: that the criminal and the investigator may know each other already .... and may even be family.

This danger of "life in a small nation" provides a dark and disturbing undercurrent for investigator Alex Morrow in Denise Mina's newest Glasgow crime novel, BLOOD SALT WATER. The four earlier books in the series, most poignantly The Red Road, establish Morrow as a feisty and smart Detective Inspector in the Scottish police, with a half-brother who's a vicious career criminal. Morrow's already had to defend her family and her own career from the backwash of Danny's crimes and colleagues. Did you ever wish a family member would just, umm, die? Hard to blame Alex for the occasional thought.

That terrible sense of family shattered into unmatching pieces -- by lifestyle, religion, and money -- caroms among the criminals in BLOOD SALT WATER. Moreoever, Mina's insight deftly portrays the struggles of small-time crooks trying to avoid becoming hard cases -- as well as the manipulation and power of those who run the show.

Powerful, well paced, engaging, and dark (although not especially gory) -- the book's already been on many "best of the year" lists, and deserves it. Best option: Read the other four books first, for added depth. But if you don't have time just now, go right ahead into this newest. Mina's such a pro that you won't feel you've missed out. Let me know what you think, once you've reached the end.

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