A Slip of the Knife

By DENISE MINA

Denise Mina has gathered accolades both for her Garnethill mysteries — set in the surprisingly affecting atmosphere of a shabby Glasgow suburb — and her more recent series centered around Paddy Meehan, a tough and chunky crime journalist who can’t stop eating anything fattening in sight or getting involved in the cases she covers. Her fourth in the string, A Slip of the Knife, is possibly her best effort to date, establishing the author on the top rung of the suspense ladder, alongside Ruth Rendell, Minette Walters and P. D. James. A large part of the novel’s power comes from the way Mina handles Paddy’s (and her own) hometown. Describing the Glasgow City Mortuary, she says, “Built in red brick, it had windows on either side of a deep doorway like a punched-in nose.” Paddy has been called to the mortuary to identify the body of her former boyfriend, reporter Terry Hewitt, found hooded and shot through the head — the classic marks of an IRA killing, although they deny any involvement. Then, to Meehan’s surprise, she discovers that Hewitt has left her his house in the country and all his notes. Things have been going well for Paddy: the single mother has finally moved out of her family home and has traded the daily crime game for a weekly column. But Terry’s death makes her put her own life and that of her five-year-old son in serious danger as she digs deeper into its murky implications. Though there are those long-running mystery icons in danger of wearing out their welcome, readers will find Mina going from strength to strength. -