The Less Dead is Denise Mina’s most recent title, and comes garlanded with praise having been shortlisted for the COSTA prize and being The Times’ crime novel of the year. Set in Glasgow, we follows Margo, a doctor who is now exploring who her true birth mother was, having been adopted as a baby. It turns out that she is the daughter of a prostitute who was murdered on the streets, and perhaps wasn’t the killer’s only victim. Deaths of working women were not always the top priority of the police, and as she learns about her mother, and she finds that she has an aunt who is convinced that there is a cover up that she’s trying to unearth.
The book explores the clashes of the two different worlds of the women, the struggles that sex workers faced, and the realities of that life. There’s an enormous amount of detail in there, and it’s clear that Mina has talked to those who have experienced that kind of life, with the battles and challenges that they faced (and continue to face).
And there’s also a great crime story at the heart of it. One of the best things about crime novels is their ability to delve into areas that we as readers might prefer not to go, but that a good crime writer is able to carry us into and explore the light and shade within.
A fine book.
Completely different is Falling by T J Newman. You could diminutively call this an airport thriller, but it really is actually that. Or in fact, an airplane thriller. The set-up is simple. Bill is a pilot for a domestic US airline who’s on a regular cross-country flight when his family is held ransom. He has to do what the hostage-takers demand, or his family will die.
This is a pacy thriller that is the very definition of a page-turner. Newman, who was herself flight attendant, drops in an enormous amount of detail about the workings of a commercial airliner, and fills out her cast with some flight attendants who I am sure are very much based on real people.
The plot sort of holds together, but this is the kind of book where everything runs so fast, you’re not really supposed to stop and think about it too hard.
Girl A by Abigail Dean came out earlier this year, garlanded with praise. “Girl A” is the court’s reference to Lex one of the kids who survived the “house of horrors” as a child, one of a number of children of a completely abusive childhood. But to what extent are any of those other children culpable?
I’ve got to admit that I found this book dark, seedy and generally horrible to read. That’s not to say that it’s not well written and beautifully paced, and you definitely want and need to get to a resolution. But the subject matter left me crawling away from it, and I wanted to forget about it as quickly as I could, because it was just so grim. It wasn’t for me.