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Slip of the Knife    by Denise Mina Amazon.com order for
Slip of the Knife
by Denise Mina
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Back Bay, 2010 (2007)
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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Denise Mina begins this third episode (published in the UK as The Last Breath) in her gritty series starring chubby, indomitable Glasgow reporter Paddy Meehan with - what else? - a murder. The victim is Paddy's old friend and ex-lover, Terry Patterson, whose skills as a journalist she greatly admired and who 'had been her touchstone for nearly a decade.' The location and method are suggestive of an IRA assassination, but the Provos don't usually kill people in Scotland.

Paddy now has a little boy, five-year-old Pete, from her brief fling with ex-cop George Burns, who's now a less than successful stand-up comic. She's moved out of her mother's house and rooms with Dub, her best friend and maybe more. And she's in the enviable position of writing a controversial column, that's 'angry, ill-considered and blunt' - and very popular. On the home front, her nun sister Mary Ann has fallen in love - with the parish priest. She's having a crisis of conscience and needs her sister Paddy's support for once.

Sensing a big story, and also driven by guilt that she was not there for him when he needed her, Paddy digs deep into Terry's murder, confronting IRA henchmen and drawing a killer's attention to herself and those in her milieu. At the same time, her ex-fiancÚ Sean's cousin Callum Ogilvy is released from jail, after serving time for his role in the killing of a toddler in the series debut, Field of Blood. Sean and his wife Elaine take shell-shocked Callum into their small, crowded home, but when that doesn't work out, it's up to Paddy (who owes Sean a big one) to make other arrangements, despite her concern about exposing small Pete to a notorious child killer.

Denise Mina does a great job of taking us into Callum's head and showing what he's had to deal with, as well as the ease with violence that his experiences have given him. Readers empathize with Paddy, feeling a degree of sympathy for what he's suffered, matched with a greater concern for what he might do now. As a killer stalks Paddy and she takes a convicted murderer into her home, we wonder if and how she will survive what ensues. The author leads us on brilliantly, and ties it all up in a violent crescendo of a highly satisfying conclusion. You don't want to miss Slip of the Knife.

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