The Dead Hour by Denise Mina****

Reading dates: 14 November – 06 December 2014

Denise Mina’s crime novel characters are like no other. There is a clarity to Paddy Meehan and to Maureen O’Donnell that Jo Nesbø (with his Harry Hole), and Lee Child (with Jack Reacher) only aspire to. It is perhaps due to the fact that she works in trilogies so the character does not have time to contradict herself in ways that annoy the reader. Then, there is the heroine’s background. Both Reacher and Hole are somewhat stereotypical, aspirational, but I know Paddy Meehan, I have met parts of her. I might be biased because I also know another of the characters in Mina’s novels: Glasgow; and she, too, is accurately, vividly portrayed. Glasgow is surprising, interesting, dark, dangerous, cold, gritty, cool. Yes, that is the city I live in.

So having declared my bias, I will mention two other things that are, perhaps, more objective: she knows how to craft stories and, importantly, to write them. Most crime writers are let down by the quality of their prose, but there were sections in The Dead Hour I went back to because they were insightful, nicely put. This only happens to me with one other crime writer, David Peace. Him and Mina are proof that a more literary version of the usual trashy crime fiction is possible and innovation can happen in this highly codified genre.

If you have recently been to the cinema to watch Nightcrawler and enjoyed it, read this book. Young Paddy Meehan will accompany you in the small (and dead) hours of the night, with her tiredness, desire for sleep, cloudy judgement, insightfulness and fad diets. I liked Nighcrawler, but I would have preferred a film adaptation of The Dead Hour.