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Field of Blood    by Denise Mina Amazon.com order for
Field of Blood
by Denise Mina
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)
Hardcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Denise Mina's plots can get so gritty that they stick in a reader's teeth. An anti-heroine starred in her previous raw noir thriller, Resolution, while there was a strong psychological element to dark Deception. Now, Field of Blood is set in Glasgow, Scotland, a city with a rough reputation, one that the author focuses on here, as she shows us a toddler (three-year-old Brian Wilcox) killed by two older boys, something that has sadly been in the news more than once.

The story's heroine is fat, smart Patricia 'Paddy' Meehan, the lowest of the low in her newspaper's pecking order, a copyboy at everyone's beck and call. Paddy is one of Glasgow's Irish Catholic community, the youngest daughter in a close, confining family, who are afraid of her ambitions. Though Paddy generally does what her parents (and a religion in which she has no particular conviction) expects of her, she's pulling against it as well, particularly in her career ambitions. But she is engaged to Sean, the youngest son of the family closest to her own.

What led Paddy to the news business was the story of her namesake, a safecracker who provided the Communists with detailed information on British jails in the 60s, was framed for murder, and pardoned due to an investigative reporter's research. But 'it was always the myth that fascinated her, never the real Meehan.' After seizing the opportunity to go out in the newspaper's calls car, monitoring police activity, Paddy discovers that one of the boys arrested for small Brian's murder is Sean's cousin Callum Ogilvy. Finding many aspects of the case odd, and suspecting police interference with witnesses, she takes up her own cause, on behalf of Callum.

Unfortunately, Paddy's betrayed by friend and fellow journalist, Heather Allen, with whom she shares her relationship to Callum. The resulting coverage results in Paddy's being shunned by family, fiancÚ and community. Though devastated, she stubbornly investigates (using Heather's name) and finds a prior child abduction/murder with similarities to small Brian's case. She teams up with young Terry Hewitt, whose 'aura of dirty-bad man' has always attracted her, and together they come to grips with the case. But, while, Paddy's figuring out who the real killer is, he's also getting close to her.

I found Field of Blood to be Denise Mina's best yet. Paddy is a wonderfully tough yet vulnerable young heroine. She pursues her journalistic investigation with common sense, intuition and a huge dollop of self doubt. I very much hope that the author will make this one a series.

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